Today 250 students in grade eight met a host of scientific researchers who investigate different aspects of energy "from the sun". Umeå University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences hosted the event to kick off an Umeå Renewable Energy Meeting (UREM), which is in fact an annual conference which brings speakers from across the world to northern Sweden and, this year, some 200 registered participants.
Dan Boström (left) is Bio4Energy's new programme manager from 15 February 2016, taking over from Stellan Marklund. Photo by Bio4Energy.
While professor Marklund is widely seen to have led the research environment from strength to strength, representing Bio4Energy in national and international fora and stayed in his position for longer than planned, finally he is about to take his retirement. The incoming programme manager Boström, for his part, comes equipped with about 30 years of experience in being an inorganic chemist, having managed people and funds for about two thirds of that time, for the last 15 last years at TEC-Lab of the UmU Department of Applied Physics and Electronics.
While the conclusions of Thyrel's work so far are based on testing on the laboratory scale, this has not stopped the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry (KSLA) deeming it useful and novel enough to grant him an award for "best PhD thesis 2016" for the report in which he sums it all up: Spectroscopic Characterisation of Lignocellulosic Biomass. Thyrel is to receive a diploma from the hands of the Swedish prince Carl Philip, 28 January in Stockholm and has received a personal grant.
"As the [biorefinery] industry is trying to start up new methods are needed for the characterisation of biomass. Biomass is heterogeneous in nature. Especially targeted processes for producing chemicals are rather sensitive [to impurities in the biomass]. One batch of wood chips does not look the same as the other. We have to find a way to characterise them so that the polluting elements can be removed or handled", said Thyrel, who works at the Department of Forest Biomaterials and Technology of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
Written by Published 10 December 2015 08:00 by A.S.
Carlos Martín and Bio4Energy colleagues have developed a one-step biomass conditioning-and-conversion process which could bring cost-efficiency to cellulosic ethanol production. Photo by Bio4Energy.Bio4Energy researchers have invented a process which could bring greater certainty of cost efficiency to industrial biorefineries that choose to base their operations on lignocellulosic input materials such as wood from spruce or pine trees.
Currently the U.S.A. and Italy are among few countries in the world to host industrial biorefineries for the production of ethanol based on cellulose via the biochemical conversion route using industrial enzymes and yeast. However, these biorefineries mainly use agricultural residue as feedstock in their operations.
While advanced bio-based production is seen as a great opportunity in several richly forested countries in the boreal belt, industrial operators there are up against a practical problem. A large part of the Canadian, Swedish and Finnish forest resource is made up of coniferous tree species whose woody composition is highly complex and requires harsh treatment before rendering its cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin components in separate parts, which is a requirement in most bio-based production. This harsh pre-treatment means toxic elements are left in the biomass slurry resulting from the process, whose impact must be reduced for efficiency to be achieved in the conversion step to fuels and chemicals.
Judith Felten and Olivier Keech received this year's Gunnar Öquist Fellowships. Öquist (left) and Carl Kempe handed over the fellowship diplomas. Photo by Bio4Energy.A Bio4Energy researcher at the Umeå Plant Science Centre has won one of two Gunnar Öquist Fellowships awarded today at Umeå University in Sweden. The award sponsored by the Kempe Foundations is a recognition of scientific and personal merit and comes with stipend of 3.05 million Swedish kronor (€330,000). Professor Emeritus Gunnar Öquist, himself a plant physiologist, is said to be one of Umeå University's most well-known scientists internationally. He is also a long-standing member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Every Gunnar Öquist Fellow receives his mentorship.
"We were both very surprised", she added on behalf of herself and her UPSC colleague and plant physiologist Olivier Keech who received the second fellowship.
A cell and molecular biologist, Felten recently has been studying the cell walls of tree roots and fungi and the changes that both undergo as they create a symbiosis referred to as ectomycorrhiza in the soil around the roots of a tree. Ectomycorrhiza is believed to favour tree growth. Giving a presentation as part of the award ceremony, the German-born researcher referred to her area of study as targeting the "secret life that goes on beneath the surface" in forests soils.
A project for Africa: Christoffer Boman and colleagues will develop a clean-burning cookstove and propose solutions for local electricity production via biomass gasification. Photos by courtesy of Christoffer Boman.Development of clean-burning technology for household cooking and medium-scale electricity production in Sub-Saharan Africa is the focus of a new multiannual project by Bio4Energy researchers in collaboration with African actors, the Swedish Environment Institute (SEI) and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
As the researchers acknowledge in an application for funds to the Swedish Research Council Formas, which has now been granted, almost one fifth of the world population still lacks access to electricity, according to the International Energy Agency. Moreover, indoor air pollution caused by biomass burning for cooking and heating either using poor appliances or simply building a fire indoors cause about two million deaths per year in Southeast Asia and Africa.
While great strides have been made by high-profile initiatives such as the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, "many uncertainties still exist regarding the performance of different cooking solutions… [and] emissions from these systems and the relation to air pollution and health effects need to be better elucidated", according to the project application.
Bio4Energy vice programme manager Marcus Öhman will develop a new efficient method for phosphorous recovery from waste sludge, together with colleagues in Bio4Energy. Photo by courtesy of Marcus Öhman.
"We could be at the stage of industrial demonstration of the technology in five years. Then a certain amount of time would be needed for classification of the product. We know that it would be economically beneficial for some [existing] bioenergy operations which use fluid-bed technology to start co-firing dried sludge with [fuel wood]", according to Öhman, who is a professor in Energy Engineering at the Luleå University of Technology (LTU).
The research and development project, which is the fruit of collaboration between Bio4Energy researchers at LTU and Umeå University, has been several years in the making. Now it can go ahead thanks to a recently announced multiannual grant from the Swedish Research Council Formas.
Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for plant growth and thus for food production. It is extracted by mining in a handful of countries worldwide and its maximum production is expected to peak in the year 2030. After that predictions range from 50 to several hundred years before it runs out. Research is ongoing on a handful of methods for recycling the mineral from sludge, but which either perform inadequately (when it comes to removal of toxic heavy metals present in sludge or to phosphorus recovery rates) or are inhibitively expensive, to believe Öhman.
"It's very good. I would like to develop better [biomass] gasification technology", said Umeki who is an associate professor at the Luleå University of Technology (LTU) in northern Sweden, who received funding for the project Chemical Interaction of Closely Located Reactive Particles in Gas Flow.
"We are going to develop tools to optimise gasifiers in industrial scale conditions and a new model that will assimilate [or mimic] the gasification process" more adequately than current models, he explained.