Bio4Energy

  • Improved Biofuel Production Key Theme in Bio4Energy's New Strategic Projects

    Bio4energy cmykFive research projects deemed capable of promoting the strategic development of Bio4Energy, and the type of research and development its members carry out, have been selected for funding in the Bio4Energy’s second programme period. The projects are deemed to be beyond state of the art and to propose a new direction of research within the field of biorefinery based on wood or organic waste. Their project leaders, representing four of the seven Bio4Energy Research and Development Platforms, will be outlining their respective projects at a conference 25 October at Umeå, Sweden. For more, see the Bio4Energy Newsletter of this autumn. Here we list the 2016 Bio4Energy Strategic Projects.

    • Process Improvements for Methanol Production via Catalytic Biomass Gasification
    • Developing Neoteric Ionic Liquids for Enhancing Biomass Gasification to Produce Purified Biosyngas
    • Supercapacitors and High-energy/density Electrodes Based on Carbon Nanofibers from Lignin and Biochar
    • Nanocellulose Membranes and Adsorbents for Gas Separations and Ultrafiltration
    • Recirculation of Wood Ash in Boreal Catchments, Role of Fe-organic Carbon Aggregates and Processes along the Soil Solution Flow Paths
  • Integrated Biogas, New Material Production Focus of New Project

    Forestry residue Photo by AnnaStromBio4Energy researchers will create processes for integrated biogas production from woody feedstock with lignin removal and re-use in different materials. Photo by Anna Strom.Bio4Energy scientists have set out to create a completely new biorefinery value chain, by marrying the production of methane biogas and bio coal based on the wood polymer lignin, in a multi-annual project run by researchers at Umeå University (UmU), Luleå University of Technology (LTU) and their industrial partners Erebia, Blatraden Miljötekniskt center and the forestry company Sveaskog. The Swedish Research Council Formas granted the project funds under its latest call for research proposals on Research for the Transition to a Bio-based Economy, announced last week.

    Projects by Bio4Energy researchers on the integration of power production with biorefinery operations and finding the best source of wood for the production of nanocellulose also were granted funds in the Bio-based Economy call.

    "We are so very happy to be able to carry out these projects. Ours could not have come about if it weren't for the contacts we have had through Bio4Energy and its Researchers' Meetings", said This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., vice programme manager in Bio4Energy and a group leader at the LTU.

    Professor Rova is part of the project Integrated Conversion of Forest Residues into Methane and Carbonised Bio-based Materials (INFORMAT). So are a number of other Bio4Energy researchers and together they will attempt to lay the foundation for a completely new value chain in biorefinery by integrating the production of methane biogas from wood and woody residue with lignin extraction and re-use. That is, the scientists will separate out the lignin part of the wood polymer complex at an early stage of the process and use it to make bio coal by subjecting the lignin fraction to high temperature treatment, using hydrothermal carbonisation technology.
  • LCA Appropriate Tool for Assessing Environmental Impact of Forest Products, But Beware of Uncertainties

    Frida Royne Photo by FRSystem analysis student in Bio4Energy Frida Røyne will be defending her PhD thesis on LCA and forest products 22 April at Umeå, Sweden. Photo by courtesy of Frida Røyne.A well-known method for assessing the environmental and climate change impacts of products over their life-cycle is Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Forest products are no exception in this respect. However, while there has been rising interest in applying LCA to check the impact of forest products designed to replace similar ones refined from fossil oil, in the last decade a discussion has been ongoing about how to account for greenhouse gas emissions and from which sources.

    LCA is one of the most commonly used methods for environmental life-cycle assessments, but the correctness of an assessment's outcome relies heavily on the researcher's choice of method in designing his or her study, as well as the availability of relevant input data.

    Tomorrow, a Bio4Energy student who has dwelled into both these issues will be defending her thesis on Exploring the Relevance of Uncertainty in the Life Cycle Assessment of Forest Products.

    Part of the new research and development platform Bio4Energy System Analysis and Bioeconomy, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. of Umeå University used recent cases studies—such as a "Forest Chemistry" project in which chemical and forestry industry in Sweden joined forces to try to assess whether a chemical industry cluster at Stenungsund could feasibly replace part of its fossil raw material base with forest-sourced feedstock—to draw conclusions as to whether LCA is a suitable method by which to assess forest products. However, being a generalist and employed by the SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, Røyne also was interested in looking at the development of LCA as a method of systems analysis, its potential flaws and the way in which these were being communicated.

    Her chief conclusion is that LCA is indeed an appropriate method for assessing the environmental and climate change impact of forest product systems, but that the use of additional methods—such as life-cycle management or scenario analysis—may be warranted and that, in each individual case, researchers have to ask themselves whether there are uncertainties and discuss these in their studies.
  • Mixed Biofuel Could Help Put Refuse to Use, Reduce Harmful Emissions

    Waste collage Pic cred MarEdoAre mixed combustion fuels, based on different types of waste and designed for specific purposes, a thing of the future? Photos by courtesy of Mar Edo.In Sweden, toxic emissions to air from incineration of domestically-sourced municipal solid waste are generally well controlled. Moreover, in accordance with the waste hierarchy adopted by the European Union in its 2008 Waste Framework Directive, re-use and recycling are favoured above recovery. Sweden thus manages to do away with about half of the total 4.4 million tonnes of waste generated annually by its households, institutions and commercial actors before the incineration option is put to use.

    However, heat recovery and electricity generation following waste incineration has become a business and the country has the capacity to burn more household waste than the 2.3 million tonnes that its citizens supply. In 2015 alone, 1.3 million tonnes of waste were imported, mainly from other European countries, and used for such waste-to-energy recovery. And when waste becomes an industry in itself, there are bound to be actors out there thinking about how to make it cleaner and finding new uses for the refuse by integrating different technologies.

    For instance, staff at Vafab Miljö, a Swedish regional waste utility, have been working with Bio4Energy researchers to find ways to blend household waste and recovered wood, learning about the mixtures behaviour as a feedstock by studying its properties and testing various mechanical pre-treatments and turned the mixed waste into fuel. In the project, carried out in collaboration with Bio4Energy partner Umeå University's Industrial Doctoral School, PhD student This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. has evaluated a range of fuel blends.
  • Network management and renewable energy development: An analytical framework with empirical illustrations

    Newell D, Söderholm P, Sandström AC. 2017. Network management and renewable energy development: An analytical framework with empirical illustrations. Energy Research & Social Science, 23:199-210, January
  • New Leader for Bio4Energy's Environmental Researchers

    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 Recyclinghas 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.

  • New Neutron-based Technology Set to Improve Process Control in Biorefineries, Bioenergy Operations

    TL MT SL AS11116Bio4Energy researchers Torbjörn Lestander (left), Mikael Thyrel and Sylvia Larsson won funding for a test-bed pilot which technology is expected to be essential for the efficient operation of biorefineries and biomass combustion facilities. Photo by Bio4Energy.

    An instrument that can help biorefinery industry and bioenergy utilities detect and remove or neutralise elements that scupper the process or pollute the environment directly as the biomass is fed into the conversion or combustion process. It sounds like every industrial operator's dream, does it not?

    For operators in northern Sweden it could come true within a few years, thanks to funding just granted to Bio4Energy researchers for the purchase of a new instrument drawing on neutron technology for the rapid and advanced online characterisation of woody materials, biomass ash and organic waste. 

    "The instrument allows for a considerable advancement when it comes to technology since the neutrons have a depth of penetration of tens of centimetres into the test material, which opens up the possibility rapidly to characterise large volumes of heterogeneous material", the researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences(SLU) say in their application to the funding provider, the Kempe Foundations.

    "This means that the technology can be placed on a conveyor belt which makes it a true online technique with a large potential to realise the necessary characterisation needed for process control in resource-efficient and flexible biorefineries of the future", they go on.

  • New Project to Assess Feasibility of Countering Intermittency of Renewble Electricity Systems with Bio-based Power

    BM in ren pow systIllustration by courtesy of Elisabeth Wetterlund.System analysis researchers in Bio4Energy, together with colleagues at partner organisations in Europe, are starting a new project that will deliver assessment tools for the integration of electricity produced during biomass conversion operations into power production systems that currently rely on high shares of intermittent renewable sources of electricity such as wind and solar.

    "We want to see if biomass can play the role of balancing out unevenness in electricity production based on a great share of renewables", according to project leader This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., who is an associate senior lecturer at the Luleå University of Technology (LTU) in northern Sweden.

    Last week, the Swedish Research Council Formas announced its intention to fund the project over two years and which will see considerable exchange of expertise between Bio4Energy at LTU, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna. The latter two organisations are based in Austria.

    Several European countries are looking to introduce high shares of electricity made from renewable sources in their energy systems, but face the potential problem of either having to store solar and wind power at a high cost or not having enough in store during extended periods of cloudy weather and low winds or, for that matter, in times of even more extreme weather events.
  • New Project to Turn Quinoa Residue into Bio-based Products

    Truth-about-human-food_280117Quinoa farming on the Andean Altiplano. Photo by courtesy of Truth About Human Food.

    Scientists in Sweden and Bolivia have teamed up to investigate whether residues from the Latin American country’s production of quinoa—the health food that helped a good number of poor Andean farmers to a higher standard of living in the early-to-mid 2000s, but with overproduction and falling prices in its wake—can be turned into biorefinery products such as renewable ethanol, bio-based polymers or so-called biopesticides.

    The three-year project, led from Sweden by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. of Bio4Energy, started last month as news arrived that the prestigious Swedish Research Council had decided to fund researcher exchanges and laboratory expenses under its 2016 call for Development Research. Umeå University in Sweden and Bolivian Universidad Mayor de San Andrés are project partners.

    In essence, the Swedish and Bolivian researchers will pool their expertise in biochemical conversion of recalcitrant lignocellulosic materials, on the one hand, and in microbial biodiversity and agricultural conditions of the high Altiplano of the Andes, the high planes of the mountain range that straddles Bolivia and Peru, on the other. The scientists will start where food production stops, that is once the edible quinoa seeds have been separated from the rest of the quinoa plant and what is left are the stalk and seed coats.

  • New Training Programme Available in 'Plant Biology for Sustainable Production'

    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.

  • Nordea Science Prize 2016 Goes to Bio4Energy Researcher Kristiina Oksman

    KO B4E 2 Kick off Photo by Anna StromBio4Energy expert on bio-based applications created using nanotechnology, Kristiina Oksman, has won this year's Nordea Science Prize. Photo by Anna Strom©.The Nordea Science Prize 2016 has been awarded Bio4Energy researcher This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., professor at the Luleå University of Technology(LTU). She received it during a prize ceremony held last weekend at Luleå in northern Sweden. It is the Swedish bank Nordea, in cooperation with the LTU vice-chancellor and deans, who decide on and hand out the prize each year to a scientist who has made "outstanding contributions to the promotion of scientific research and development" and who has been "a good representative [of] the university", according to a press release from the LTU.

    "When they first called me [to announce the prize] I couldn't believe it was true. This is such a great encouragement. I am very happy", said Oksman whose research group creates nanocellulose applications and bio-based composites materials using nanotechnology. Oksman was a platform leader in Bio4Energy between the years 2010 and 2015. Currently she and her group are members of the research and development platform Bio4Energy Biopolymers and Biochemical Conversion Technologies.

  • Potentially Toxic Chemicals in Thermal Conversion of Biomass Need to Be Investigated, Controlled

    QiujuGao 416Bio4Energy PhD researcher Qiuju Gao checks torrefied material for toxic organic chemicals in a laboratory at the University of York. Photo by courtesy of Qiuju Gao.In large-scale production of heat and electricity in the developed world, emissions from biomass burning are generally well controlled. Recently, however, new high-technological methods have been invented that are designed as a pre-treatment step to various forms of temperature-dependent conversion of renewable biomass to fuels, chemicals and materials, often in combination with heat and/or electricity production.

    Because in such thermal conversion every new process step could be a potential source of undesirable emissions, and because these need to be controlled for the purpose of safeguarding human health and the environment, Bio4Energy scientists set out to investigate the matter with a focus on toxic emissions in relation to pre-treatment technologies that are still in their infancy: Microwave-assisted pyrolysis and torrefaction. While the former is designed to produce a bio oil using microwave technology (and which oil then may be further refined into value-added specialty chemicals), the other is a form of roasting of the biomass which renders light-weight and hydrophobic solid pellets or briquettes. Both methods are performed in an oxygen free, or near oxygen-free, environment.

    In a set of studies carried out by Bio4Energy PhD student This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and colleagues at Umeå University in Sweden and at the University of York in the UK, the researchers wanted to find out whether each of the two technologies gave rise to the formation of dioxins or dioxin-like substances that are toxic organic compounds that can spread over large distances, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and animals and persist for a long time in the environment. These chemicals are regulated under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) which is a global treaty agreed under the auspices of the United Nations in 2001. It aims for countries to phase out the use of POPs since these are known to induce cancer and immune system deficiencies in humans.
  • Prebiotics to be Developed in Science-industry Project

    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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  • Problem-solving Studies on Biomass Gasification, Waste Water Treatment Enabled by VR Grants

    gallery thumbnailsBio4Energy researchers won funds for water treatment projects. Photo by courtesy of FDP.Bio4Energy researchers have won funds for carrying out scientific studies on reducing soot formation in biomass gasification for making biofuels, as well as two projects on water purification in developing countries. The prestigious Swedish Research Council(VR) announced a number of decisions on research funding this week, with the grants to Bio4Energy's researchers corresponding to the 'Natural and Engineering Sciences' and 'Development Research' categories. Bio4Energy PIs This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. were the three happy recipients.

    "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.
  • Projects on Next Generation Bio-based Materials, Processes to Start Next Month

    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 Councilannounced 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.

  • Pyrolysis Oil from Biomass Could Be Early Alternative to Fossil Oil in Transition to Society Fuelled by Renewables

    MM Pyrolysis 16615Magnus Marklund and his team at the SP ETC will be able to continue the development of applications of biomass-based pyrolysis oil, thanks to new funding grants from the Swedish Energy Agency and Kempe Foundations. Photo by Maria Fäldt.Pyrolysis of biomass—thermochemical decomposition of wood or organic waste at elevated temperatures and with minimal presence of oxygen—could be an "interesting" option in a transition to replacing today's fossil oil with renewable alternatives, according to a Bio4Energy expert on the thermal conversion of biomass to fuels and chemicals. Thus far, however, lack of knowledge about the composition of the bio-oil obtained from pyrolysis of wood or woody waste has been a hindrance efficiently to design techniques for producing and using such bio-oil, to believe researchers in Bio4Energy at the SP Energy Technology Center(SP ETC) at Piteå, in Sweden.

    After five years of research in Bio4Energy, and three new funding grants enabling the start of two research projects and the purchase of state-of-the-art instrumentation, that may be about to change.

    Until recently, "perhaps 50 per cent of the contents of the oil made by way of pyrolysis could be mapped by ordinary gas chromatography and other methods", said This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., CEO at the SP ETC, having just received the announcement of two research grants worth more than eight million Swedish kronor from the Swedish Energy Agency, plus support for highly advanced analytical equipment called GCxGC MS from the Kempe Foundations. GC is short for gas chromatography, which in this case is two dimensional, but in this new instrument it has been coupled with a technique called mass spectrometry.

    "With the new funding from the Energy Agency for the research projects and for a state-of-the-art analytic instrument from Kempe we are going to complement, strengthen and inventory what is being done on an international top level.
  • R&D Platform Meeting: System Analysis and Bioeconomy, Umeå, Sweden

  • Report on New Method to Map Biomass Properties Receives Praise, but Author Warns Large-scale Testing, Industry Cooperation, Needed

    Mikael Thyrel Photo by Anna StromBio4Energy reseracher Mikael Thyrel has been acknowledged for his work by the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry. Photo by Anna Strom©.The composition of different types of biomass materials varies widely and may even vary within, say, a single species of wood. This is generally seen as an impediment to the large-scale roll out of biorefinery—meaning industrial operations designed to make a cascade of bio-based products such as biofuels, "green" chemicals or bio-based starting materials for products—since each biorefinery process may have to be adapted to biomass materials from a single source. This is especially true for lignocellulosic biomass, meaning biomass from wood or inedible parts of plants.

    Thus, knowledge about quick and easy ways to judge the properties of each type of biomass is high in demand. Bio4Energy postdoctoral fellow This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. has focused his research on such methods, in the pre-treatment step of the biomass intended for use in biorefinery processes. Using sophisticated X-ray fluorescence and near-infrared spectroscopy, he found that the two techniques may be used to gauge the amount of non-desirable ash-forming elements or contaminants and to single out wood chips for their content of value-added extractive substances, respectively.

    While the conclusions of Thyrel's work so far are based on testing on a 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.
  • Screening of active solid catalysts for esterification of tall oil fatty acids with methanol,

    Kocík J, Samikannu A, Bourajoini H, Ngoc Pham T, Mikkola J-P, Hájek M, Čapek L. 2016. Screening of active solid catalysts for esterification of tall oil fatty acids with methanol, Journal of Cleaner Production, Available online 22 September
  • Seminar on Bio-based Feedstock: 'Make No Mistake, There is Still Momentum for Building the Bioeconomy'

    Is the efficient and sustainable biorefinery of the future challenged by the low price of oil and gas and the lack of a political framework that encourages bio-based production in the long term? Yes. Have actors in the sector shut up shop while waiting for conditions to be right for launching the bioeconomy? Not at all.

    Judging from developments in Sweden, a precursor country in terms of biorefinery development based on woody materials and organic waste, great strides are being made in industry and academia to pave the way for a transition from an economy heavily reliant fossil fuels and materials based on petrochemicals, towards a bioeconomy. A few such developments were highlighted yesterday at a seminar at Umeå, in northern Sweden, on Feedstock for Sustainable Biofuel Production, by the Swedish Knowledge Centre for Renewable Transportation Fuels (f3 Centre), the research environment Bio4Energy and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

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