The research environment Bio4Energy aims to create a highly efficient and environmentally-sound biorefinery processes that uses biomass sourced from forests or organic waste as raw material.
Raw materials, or “feedstock”, should be used as completely and as efficiently as possible at all stages of the biorefinery value chain. This is taken to mean from the design or planting of seeds to grow trees, through to the development of consumer products that can be commercialised and add value for their soundness in terms of economic, environmental and social sustainability.
Some of the things Bio4Energy aims to do differently are to use all parts of the tree, recycling or recovering byproducts that typically go to waste in mainstream forestry operations. Some of the Bio4Energy scientists—there are more than 230 of them—are developing processes by which to turn waste streams into energy or other bio-based products.
Bio4Energy's Environmental and Process Integration Platforms are cooperating with other organisations to check the methods and tools being developed by its process platforms for effectiveness and environmental impacts. These are platforms focused on thermal chemistry, biological chemistry, pretreatment and fractionation of biomass-based materials, catalysis and separation, as well as the design and "improvement" of feedstock. As a first step, system analysis will be applied to technologies and processes being designed so as to ensure they do not contribute to creating new environmental problems.
One vision, many partners
A large number of industrial operators have endorsed Bio4Energy and are part of its industrial network. The scientists cooperate with them to develop second-generation biofuels, "green" chemicals and “bio-based" end products or even new materials. Another strand of work focuses on eliminating noxious emission or residues from existing industrial process. For instance, methods are being designed to convert biomass ash and sludges into renewable energy, liming materials or low-polluting fertilizers. In some cases, high-temperature processes will be used to rid the biorefinery process of heavy metals or toxic organic compounds. Another promising line of research in Bio4Energy targets the capture and recycling of carbon dioxide, the international reference for greenhouse gases. New technologies for CO2 capture and reuse that rely on catalytic processes are being invented.
A research 'environment'
Bio4Energy is not only a research programme, but also a research environment. At its core are three Swedish universities recognised as national leaders in education in and research on bioenergy, biotechnology and forest management. They are Umeå University, Luleå University of Technology and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. A large number of Sweden-based firms and a handful of innovation and research institutes have signed up to become partners. Of these Innventia and the Energy Technology Centre at Piteå are founding members of Bio4Energy. Moreover research collaborations are underway with researchers or research organisations in Europe as well as in the U.S.A., Australia, Canada, China, Russia, Taiwan, Japan and other countries. The Bio4Energy research programme is committed to sustainable resource use and aware of the European Union's efforts to combat climate change by lessening the reliance on fossil fuels and boosting the production and use of renewable energy. In particular, Bio4Energy works to align its practices on advice issued by the European Technology Platforms devoted to forests, plants and biofuels. Since early 2014, it is a member of the Bio-based Industries' Consortium, which expects to see the birth by May 2014 of a Bio-based Industries' Joint Undertaking as a part of the European Union's JTI process.
Bio4Energy aims to be a driving force for innovation and thereby the creation of small and medium-sized companies. It has set up its own graduate school so as to provide post-secondary training for a new generation of academic researchers, to develop scientific expertise in bioenergy, bio-based chemicals and, as a separate strand, biotechnology. Support for Bio4Energy comes from the Swedish government, the three universities at Umeå and Luleå in northern Sweden and partner organisations. Finally, the Processum Biorefinery Initative and Solander Science Park, both organisations that have a number of companies in or related to the biorefinery industry as their members, are strategic partners of Bio4Energy.
For more information: See the Bio4Energy Clean-Tech Article (drop-down menu from the 'Research' heading) or an article in Swedish by Umeå University Information Services.
Hereunder is the standard acknowledgements of supporters of academic research ascribed to Bio4Energy:
We thank Bio4Energy, a strategic research environment appointed by the Swedish government, for supporting this work.