Have you ever wondered what artificial intelligence is and how it can be used in research and development on bio-based technologies? Or what the cost would be replacing the use of fossil fuel-based petrol and diesel with renewable methanol as a transport fuel in Sweden? Bio4Energy is publishing some clues below, contained in presentations given at the most recent Bio4Energy Researchers’ Meeting, which is a biannual event where researchers, students and technicians who are members of the research environment meet and trade notes on their latest progress. This autumn, they met 15 November for a seminar at Skellefteå, Sweden.

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In August, Bio4Energy researchers and partners unveiled a scheme that could enable large-scale production of hydrogen based on renewable electricity. This month, the director of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA), Björn O. Nilsson, acknowledged it his annual speech Progress in Research and Technology 2017.

He did so approximately 25.15 minutes into the speech. We publish it here, with permission. Bio4Energy wants to thank Pär Rönnberg, writer at IVA, for coordinating contacts with us.

Årets framsteg inom forskning och teknik 2017 from IVA on Vimeo. Bio4Energy results on a new catalyst for large-scale hydrogen production part of IVA president speech on Best Research of 2017. Video published with permission.

VR grants 21117Bio4Energy researchers will kick off three new projects next month designed, respectively, to make carbonised lignin materials, and chemicals from carbon dioxide and electricity, as well as to create knowledge on nutrient interactions with heavy metal content in biomass ash used as fertilizer.

This week, the prestigious Swedish Research Council announced its decision fund them, along with 322 other top-of-the-line fundamental research projects nationally, on the back of its annual call for proposals on Science and Technology.

All three projects run over four years. Each are at the leading-edge of bio-based research, expected to pave the way for industrial innovation. In Bio4Energy, they are under the supervision of scientists on two different R&D platforms: Bio4Energy Biopolymers and Biochemical Conversion Technologies and Bio4Energy Environment and Nutrient Recycling.

Read more: Projects on Next Generation Bio-based Materials, Processes to Start Next Month

Plant Biology Master SLUPlant Biology for Sustainable Production. Programme image by courtesy of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.Next year will see the start of a new training programme for students who hold a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and want to continue their education, to learn to develop sustainable food products or bio-based materials using plant biology.

Plant Biology—including plant protection, breeding and biotechnology—is much believed in as a science that carrying great promise for the development of sustainable food and fuels to meet current day societal challenges: Phasing out infinite and polluting fossil oil as a raw material for everyday products, while meeting the needs of world population expected to reach 9.8 billion in 2050.

The new Master’s degree programme—Plant Biology for Sustainable Production—will be given from September 2018 by the Bio4Energy partner Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), in a unique cooperation by its three campuses in northern, mid and southern Sweden. It is designed to prepare students either for a career in academic research, or in industry or the public sector.

The application opened this month to close mid-January 2018.

SLU senior lecturer This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., head of the R&D platform Bio4Energy Feedstock, leads a working group appointed to lay down the study plan and contents of the two-year programme, which includes the possibility from the second year to specialise in one of the following four strands:

  • Forest Biotechnology;

  • Plant Protection and Breeding for Mitigating Climate Change;

  • Abiotic and Biotic Interactions of Cultivated Plants;

  • Genetic and Molecular Plant Biology.

The Forest Biotechnology specialisation will be given at Umeå, Sweden, in cooperation with a leading research environment and a centre, respectively: Bio4Energy and the Umeå Plant Science Centre.

Read more: New Training Programme Available in 'Plant Biology for Sustainable Production'

JohannaMossberg CreditAnnaStromf3 Centre director Johanna Mossberg said the prolongation of the Renewable Fuels and Systems' programme meant its research results would be made more useful. Photo by Bio4Energy© 2017, archives.The Swedish national research programme Renewable Fuels and Systems is set to continue for four more years, the Swedish Energy Agency announced this week. In the four years since its inception, the programme—tasked with delivering fodder for science-based decision-making on systems' issues pertaining to renewable transport fuels—has delivered an extensive range of reports.

Coordinators are the Energy Agency itself and the Swedish Knowledge Centre for Renewable Transportation Fuels (f3 Centre), of which Bio4Energy is a founding member.

“We are happy about the extension of the programme. Now we can build on the research done to date and make it even more useful. Every part [of the work delivered] is important for spurring a transition to an energy system free of fossil fuels”, said f3 Centre director This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., member of the Bio4Energy Industrial Network.

While the future direction of research on the programme is yet to be unveiled, and a first call for project proposals launched at the turn of the year, the foci of the work during 2014-2017 could be an indication of what is to come:

  • Large-scale production of biofuels;
  • Geographical placement of production units, e.g. biorefineries;
  • Socioeconomic effects of using renewable feedstock in fuel making instead of petrochemicals.

Contribution by Bio4Energy and partners

Joakim Lundgren 314Joakim Lundgren represents Bio4Energy as a member of the Board of the Swedish Knowledge Centre for Renewable Transportation Fuels. Photo by courtesy of the LTU.To cap off the first programme period, the actors of the Renewable Fuels and Systems’ programme are inviting stakeholder to a conference 25 and 26 October, to share results from 29 projects. Bio4Energy researchers are part of seven of them:

  • Techno-economic analysis of bio methane production with novel upgrading technology - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Bio4Energy at the Luleå University of Technology

  • Methanol production via black liquor gasification with expanded raw material base - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Bio4Energy System Analysis and Bioeconomy, Luleå University of Technology

  • Environmental and socio-economic benefits from Swedish biofuel production - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Bio4Energy System Analysis and Bioeconomy, Luleå University of Technology

  • BeWhere - Stake-holder analysis of biofuel production in Sweden - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Bio4Energy System Analysis and Bioeconomy, Luleå University of Technology. More on the start of the BeWhere project here.

  • Long-term sustainability evaluation of fossil free fuels production concepts - Åsa Kastensson, previoulsy with Bio4Energy System Analysis and Bioeconomy, Luleå University of Technology

  • Methane as vehicle fuel - a gate-to-wheel study (METDRIV) - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Bio4Energy System Analysis and Bioeconomy, Luleå University of Technology

  • Barriers to an increased utilisation of high biofuel blends in the Swedish vehicle fleet - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Bio4Energy System Analysis and Bioeconomy, Luleå University of Technology

Come to meet the programme participants, including Bio4Energy researchers and programme manager, at the 25-26 October conference at Uppsala, Sweden.

Registration is available here until 11 October.

DanilKorelskiy Beckers webDanil Korelskiy, a former Bio4Energy student specilising in membrane technology, has moved on to work with the multinational Beckers Group, at Beckers Industrial Coatings in Stockholm. Photo by courtesy of Danil Korelskiy.A number of Bio4Energy graduates—former students at the PhD or postdoctoral level—have moved on to work in industry at the end of their training. Some have gone to small- and medium-sized companies, such as SEKAB, or to larger companies or groups, like BillerudKorsnäs. Conversely, there are examples of PIs who have moved from employment at a commercial company to join the ranks of Bio4Energy researchers, or from the academy to join a research institute.

A shining example of the first is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., until recently with the research and development (R&D) platform Bio4Energy Chemical Catalysis and Separation Technologies at the Luleå University of Technology (LTU) in northern Sweden. This month, he took up employment with Beckers Industrial Coatings, as a Technical R&D Manager for Coil Coatings for North Europe. He is based at Stockholm, the Swedish capital.

With a background in Chemical Engineering, Russian-born Korelskiy has been specialising in membrane technology. The Beckers Group, for its part, say they lead the world when it comes to industrially-designed and pre-painted coatings applied to metal sheets and composite panels for roofs or domestic appliances, together with a handful of North American and Asian companies, according to the group's website and Korelskiy.

Read more: Bio4Energy Graduates Who Move on to Industry: Danil Korelskiy to Beckers Group

Water drop UmU 10817Scientist in Bio4Energy and academic partners have created a catalyst for water splitting into hydrogen and oxygen which system, if brought to scale, they say could render cost efficiency to large-scale water electrolysis systems. The intention is for these latter to be powered by electricity made from solar energy or another renewable source.

The concept could be used to produce sufficiently large amounts of hydrogen for this to be a cost-competitive energy carrier in the production of diesel or jet fuel. Springer Nature published the results last month in its Scientific Reports series.

“The system that we have created is robust, scalable and cheap... A further advantage is that we made it work using an alkaline saltwater solution. In principle you could run these systems on sea water”, said corresponding author This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., professor at Bio4Energy lead partner Umeå University.

What the researchers spread over academic institutions in Sweden, Finland and Vietnam set out to do was not necessarily to find the most productive catalyst, but rather one that was cheap, environmentally benign and—above all—performed with great stability and potential for scale up.

Read more: New Catalyst Paves Way for Large-Scale Hydrogen Production from Renewables

StinaJansson platform lead Photo by AnnaStrom copyAssociate professor Stina Jansson is a new leader for the R&D platform Bio4Energy Environment and Nutrient Recycling. Photo by Bio4Energy.The research and development platform Bio4Energy Environment and Nutrient Recycling has a new leader. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., associate professor at Umeå University (UmU), will be taking over the platform leadership from Dan Boström, who has seen his workload increase substantially since becoming Bio4Energy programme manager in February last year. Boström and Jansson will be sharing the leadership over the summer, following which Jansson will shoulder the role fully from 1 September 2017.

“We are pleased to announce that Stina is a new platform leader in Bio4Energy. She is a young researcher with a great record as an environmental chemist. She is also at a very progressive stage of her career. We are glad that she has accepted to take on the role”, said Boström, professor at UmU, adding that the Bio4Energy Board had passed the decision this month to promote Jansson to the post of platform leader.

Part of the research environment since its launch in 2010, Jansson was a postgraduate student in the group of the former Bio4Energy programme manager, professor emeritus Stellan Marklund. Her area of expertise includes research to check the environmental credentials of thermal processes for the conversion of biomass.

Read more: New Leader for Bio4Energy's Environmental Researchers

NS MOh DB MB ChB AS8617For a long time, the selection of fuels for biomass combustion, in terms of avoiding problems such as slagging and fouling of the reactors, often was carried out based on trial and error. About a decade into the 21st century, a group of Sweden-based researchers with long-standing experience in high-temperature conversion of woody feedstock to heat and power started to mull over a more systematic approach to assessing the reactions in thermal conversion of the chief trouble-making content of the biomass: the inorganic compounds forming the ash.

In 2012, the scientist, brought together under the umbrella of Bio4Energy, published an article on Ash Transformation Chemistry during Combustion of Biomass in the interdisciplinary scientific journal Energy & Fuels by the American Chemical Society (ASC). The article describes a conceptual model by which any type of biomass—whether originating from wood, woody or agricultural residue or other types of combustible waste—may be characterised, and thus understood, in terms of the basic chemical reactions that take place during thermal conversion of biomass into heat, power, fuels and chemicals.

After having been amply cited by other researchers around the world, this spring, the article by Bio4Energy scientists received the 2017 Energy & Fuels Joint Award for Excellence in Publication.

Read more: Bio4Energy Researchers Acknowledged for 'Milestone' Article on Ash Transformation Chemistry

Bio4Energy researchers with expertise in biochemical conversion technologies and wood pre-processing are at the helm of two new projects to develop prebiotics and commercial fish feed, and fungi and biofuels, respectively, from bio-based starting materials. Both are three-year projects granted in the 2017 round of funding for innovation projects by BioInnovation, a Swedish national platform for bio-based innovations, and have a substantial line-up of commercial companies as partners.

The first project, called ForceUpValue for short, aims at demonstrating the production of low-cost prebiotics—food or feed ingredients that, once in the gut, induce the growth of microorganisms and which activity can have a positive effects on human health—starting from two abundantly available sources of bio-based feedstock: Forestry residues and a sea-living organism called Ciona intestinalis. The latter is known to have an outer layer, a tunic, rich in cellulose, which the project partners expect to use in the production of prebiotics.

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Read more: Prebiotics to be Developed in Science-industry Project