- Written by Anna Strom
scientists across that research environment said that they were forming new collaborations across its seven research platforms.
With a good ten researchers joining B4E this autumn, several of whom taking on senior roles, the meeting was designed to provide a forum for scientists across the B4E partner universities at Umeå and Luleå, and the research institute Innventia, to meet and to learn about projects being introduced by new members. Those buzzing around the B4E hub at Umeå, Sweden, where the conference was held, are described here.
The project was part of a research collaboration called Enzycoat II, spanning a handful of academic institutions, as well as “several” partners in industry and research institutes across Europe, according to Winestrand.
“We create active packaging… to decrease the oxygen content of packaging and avoid oxidation, the loss of taste or growth of moulds and bacteria”, she said. At the conference, she and Gillgren called on colleagues to share their work on forest-sourced raw materials for packaging applications.
New member: Thomas Gillgren does research on biochemicals for films and coatings. He is a postdoctoral researcher on the B4E Biochemical Platform since this autumn. Gillgren, who holds a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Uppsala University, was previously with the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology at Gothenburg, Sweden.
Biomass flow characteristics studied
“We are really looking for collaborations with other units… and to do more… as an integral part of the other Bio4Energy platforms”, she told the meeting.
An assistant professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences’ biomass technology and chemistry unit, Larsson described a recent project to gauge the effects of storage on pine tree sawdust and, subsequently, on the quality of biomass-based “fuel” pellets which should consist of a light-weight but energy dense material. Storing the sawdust in large, carefully constructed piles, outdoors in the cool of northern Swedish climes, the researchers found the quality of the sawdust to increase after just one-to-two months, taking on further desirable characteristics after four-to-five months.
"We saw a breakdown of fats... Fats can block the (chemical) bonds and make it more difficult to compact", she said of the sawdust to be used as raw material in the production of biomass pellets.
Further, the Umeå arm of the Pretreatment team was seeking funding for a project to make biomass flow evenly through industrial process, under an umbrella called ‘Bio4Flow’, which included researchers at British, Spanish, Italian and Scandinavian universities, and had been appointed a “star cluster” under the European Union-funded Star-COLIBRI project.
Concluding officially by 1 November, this two-year project set out to “overcome fragmentation and promote better cooperation in the area of biorefinery research” and to support industrial innovation. It has involved five major European research organisation, of which B4E, and produced five European Technology Platforms. A legacy of the Star-COLIBRI project is a Joint European Biorefinery Vision for 2030 and a Joint European Research Roadmap, both of which documents were unveiled 5 October in Brussels, Belgium, at a conference for policymakers. However, several star clusters, such Bio4Flow, are set to continue their activities.
New member: Sylvia Larsson is an assistant professor with the unit of biomass technology and chemistry (BTC) at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) since January this year, and a member of the B4E Pretreatment and Fractionation Platform since July. Winning her PhD from SLU in 2008, she went on to become a postdoctoral researcher with BTC and, as such, spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow at the department of chemical and biological engineering at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.
Inorganic emission from woody biomass burning need reining in
Rainer Backman, who recently joined B4E as a professor at the department of chemistry at Umeå University, described a next step in the biorefinery value chain. With
B4E he would be looking at methods for and impacts of conversion of woody materials and their waste streams into energy. He said more research was needed to check the content and amount of ash obtained from biomass burning. These would depend on the fuel mixture, plant operation and equipment design, and affect aspects such as the corrosion of equipment, emissions to air and catalytic effects.
"One of the most important problems with ash is the deposit build up on the walls of boilers and gasifiers,” he said;
“This problem is very difficult to solve” and, in the abscence of expertise on high-temperature chemical processes it was, “very expensive and complicated”.
Backman called for more “ash research” to be conducted in the areas of: Lab and bench-scale studies on volatilisation of inorganic compounds; ash properties of different fuel mixtures; phase composition and; viscosity and melt of particle mixtures.
“For Bio4Energy, besides biorefinery, we will be (looking) at combustion and gasification for power production”, he said of the work by his group at the energy technology and thermal process chemistry unit at Umeå University.
“We need… pilot research. Here our role is to get into the inorganics. We also need pilot research for validation and to gain knowledge for further technology development," according to Backman.
New member: Rainer Backman is a professor in energy technology and thermal process chemistry at Umeå University, as well as an associate professor in high-temperature chemistry and thermodynamics at Åbo Akademi, a Finnish university. Backman conducts research across a range of areas in “chemical engineering and process chemistry for increased and enhanced use of biomass in energy production”, according to his short CV. At the miniconference, Bio4Energy programme manager Stellan Marklund bid him a special welcome back to Umeå University, where he had served at an earlier point of his “very substantial” career as a scientist.