Technology platform

TMO’s technology is based on the efficient ethanol production by robust microorganisms, called thermophiles. These thermophiles can be used to make fuels and chemicals from a wide range of cheap renewable biomass feedstocks.


During the last quarter of a century bioscience has discovered a vast array of micro-organisms, growing in the most inhospitable environments such as volcanic vents, deep-sea black smokers, hot springs, Antarctic ice or saline lakes in East Africa.

Thermophiles grow at temperatures in excess of 50°C, much higher than can be tolerated by the majority of life-forms, and are naturally robust. Enzymes from these organisms are already used in biotechnology because of their natural temperature stability. At around 70°C thermophile-derived enzymes are routinely used to amplify DNA targets (the PCR or polymerase chain reaction) – a process which has revolutionised the biotechnology industry in the past 25 years.

Robust and fast

TMO’s thermophiles can consume the whole range of sugars derived from biomass, are tolerant to fluctuations in pH and temperature, and have very rapid growth rates and high metabolic activity. TMO believes that its thermophiles will bring about a quantum leap in the way that biofuels are produced. They therefore represent ideal production organisms for the future of ethanol production.

The key to TMO’s technology is continuous fermentation at high temperature. This novel approach – running a continuous process with organisms that are able to utilise all sugars found in biomass feedstocks – has a number of unique advantages:

  • Organism utilises all sugars (C5 & C6) – reducing waste
  • Organism is regarded as safe
  • Process has a lower energy requirement
  • Is run continuously – reducing operational complexity
  • At higher temperatures and high metabolic production rates

TMO facilities

In April 2006 TMO opened its new, state-of-the-art fermentation process laboratories, equipped with some of the most advanced fermentation and analysis equipment used in the bioethanol fermentation industry.

TMO will optimise the fermentation process in these laboratories, demonstrate productivity with a range of commercially viable feedstocks and bring the technology to commercial realisation. TMO are also currently setting up facilities to take the fermentation to pilot scale.

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