Lignin 2014 international conference, its organisers express satisfaction at the wide range of speakers and attendees having signed up to hear of the latest scientific progress and future applications of lignin, one of the most abundant polymers in plants and so the wood of trees. The discussions are set to cover both the biological and chemical side of lignin research—in fact, a chief objective is to bring the two sides together in one conference—and with an entire session devoted to industrial development of lignin applications. Beginning of August, 144 people had signed up to attend the conference, together with 21 presenters who represent the absolute top-runners in the science or industrial application of lignin.With just over two weeks to go to the start of the
Already lignin and so-called derivatives made or extracted from it are being used in building construction materials and as food supplements. Medical applications are being developed. For instance, the Borregaard biorefinery group had shown that lignin derivatives are suitable for use as flavouring agents in food, Jönsson said. Notably, the group has invented a vanilla extract. Using lignin may thus serve to take some of the synthetic chemicals out of food. Jönsson added that bulk production does not have to be a prerequisite for new product applications to be economically viable.
"New products… do not need be to quantitatively important to have a large economic impact. Most of the lignin used today is used to produce energy. This is not optimal from an economic point of view.
"If we can find more high value-added products this will be critical for the development of the biorefinery industry.
"There is also the possibility of producing aromatic substances based on renewable materials", Jönsson noted. Products based on aromatics have traditionally drawn on crude oil as a feedstock and many types of plastics are made this way, although not all.
On the practical side of things, Tuominen said that in the part of the scientific community working to develop applications, the heat was on to find a way to redesign lignin molecules in trees. The purpose would be to design a tree from which wood lignin could be extracted with less harsh methods than those used by scientists today.
"This is the hottest research issue right now", Tuominen said.
Lignin 2014 Organising Committee
Hannele Tuominen – Umeå Plant Science Centre (UPSC) and Bio4Energy, Umeå University (UmU), Sweden
Edouard Pesquet – UPSC and Bio4Energy, UmU, Sweden
Leif Jönsson – Bio4Energy, UmU, Sweden
Ewa Mellerowicz – UPSC and Bio4Energy, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Sweden
Mattias Hedenström - Department of Chemistry, UmU, Sweden
Carlos Martín – Bio4Energy, UmU, Sweden
Sacha Escamez - UPSC and Bio4Energy, SLU, Sweden
Lignin 2014 Scientific Committee
Wout Boerjan – VIB, University of Gent, Belgium
Vincent L. Chiang – North Carolina State University, U.S.A.
Kurt Fagerstedt – University of Helsinki, Finland
Hans Grundberg – Domsjö Fabriker AB, Sweden
John Ralph – University of Wisconsin – Madison, U.S.A.
Björn Sundberg – Stora Enso and Bio4Energy/SLU, Sweden
Teemu Teeri – University of Helsinki, Finland
Emile van Zyl – Stellenbosch University, South Africa
The UPSC and Bio4Energy hope to see you at Umeå 24-28 August!
Photography: of Umu Arts' Campus, published with permission; of the Lignin 2014 Organising Committe, by Anna Strom©.
A press release in Swedish has been send to journalists in Sweden by Bio4Energy and Umeå University.