fundamental research

  • Bio4Energy Researcher Made Gunnar Öquist Fellow

    Gunnar-Oquist-Fellows-2015_ASJudith Felten and Olivier Keech received this year's Gunnar Öquist Fellowships. Öquist (left) and Carl Kempe handed over the fellowship diplomas. Photo by Bio4Energy.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.

    "I am very honoured to receive this award", said This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., who is affiliated with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU).

    "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.

  • Bio4Energy Researchers Acknowledged for 'Milestone' Article on Ash Transformation Chemistry

    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.

  • Bio4Energy Thesis Defence: Characterisation and Densification of Carbonised Lignocellulosic Biomass, Umeå, Sweden

    Bio4Energy PhD student researcher Magnus Rudolfsson will be defending his thesis Characterisation and Densification of Carbonised Lignocellulosic Biomass.

    Venue: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences at Umeå. Room: Björken.

  • Bio4Energy Thesis Defence: Mixed Fuels Composed of Household Waste Wood, Umeå, Sweden

  • Bio4Energy Thesis Defence: Particle emissions from residential wood and biodiesel combustion, Umeå, Sweden

  • Bio4Energy Thesis Defence: Pretreatment and enzymatic saccharification of lignocellulose, Umeå, Sweden

    Full title: Pretreatment and enzymatic saccharification of lignocellulose: formation and effects of pseudolignin
  • Discovery of Mechanism behind Organisation of Plant Cell Wall Raises Hopes for Biorefinery Development

    EP RES break 17915Bio4Energy researchers Edouard Pesquet and Delphine Ménard in the laboratory at the Umeå Plant Science Centre in Sweden, checking on some of the proteins they found. Photo by Bio4Energy.

    Plant biologists have long tried to come up with a method for making trees produce large amounts of easily extractable biomass for making renewable products such as biofuels and "green" chemicals. Indeed, international conferences such as Lignin 2014 have seen scores or well-respected scientistsbiologists and chemists alikebrood the reasons why successful attempts to increase biomass production have led to the making of sample plants whose stems and branches sag in sad poses or to increased difficulty at the steps of extracting and separating the main components of wood: cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin.

    Whereas most of these attempts were aimed at trying to increase the production of biomass within the plant cell, a team of scientists based in Sweden and the UK came up with the idea to try to lay bare the processes responsible for the organisation of the cells in the plant's secondary cell wall. Thus the focus is no longer on maximising biomass production, but rather on finding out the exact way in which a plant goes about building its cell walls from within and who is responsible for doing what in that process. The researchers found as many as 605 proteins hard at work, performing specific and mostly non-overlapping tasks to control aspects of the cell wall's organisation such as its thickness, homogeneity, cortical position and patterns.

    "We tried to unravel the processes organising the cell. [What we found is that] the cell wall needs to be placed and organised specifically for wood cells to work. We have identified genes or proteins implicated in the control of this mechanism", said This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., the Bio4Energy researcher who led the international study published in the well-respected ThePlant Cell scientific journal.

  • Dynamic modelling of homogeneously catalysed glycerol hydrochlorination in bubble column reactor

    de Araujo Filho CAI, Wärnå J, Mondal D, Haase S, Eränen K, Mikkola J-P, Salmi T. 2016. Dynamic modelling of homogeneously catalysedglycerol hydrochlorination in bubble column reactor. Chem.Eng.Sci., 149, 277-295
  • European Chemistry Congress, Rome, Italy

    Euro Chemistry 2016 is a specially designed cluster conference with a
    theme "Exploring recent advances in chemistry, related fields and
    applications" which covers almost all aspect and fields of Chemistry.

    Abstract submission: 
    on or before 27 March 2016.
  • F1000 Recommends Bio4Energy Tool for Cell-trait Quantification

    Urs Fischer Photo by Anna StromUrs Fischer talks up some hybrid aspen plants in a greenhouse at the Umeå Plant Science Centre at Umeå University in Sweden. Photo by Anna Strom©.

    A study by Bio4Energy researchers and partners was recommended by F1000 faculty as an important article in biology. The Faculty of 1000, or F1000, is an international group of academics—faculty members—who have tasked themselves with identifying and recommending the best research output in biology and medicine when it comes to peer-reviewed scientific articles.

    The study by 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. and others gives an overview of a new package of analytical tools for quantifying large amounts of cellular traits, called phenotypes, in plants such as trees. Using the tools, researchers will be able to extract quantitative data from raw images obtained using state-of-the-art fluorescent microscopy. This has not previously been possible and the researchers expect this feature to speed up the process where large amounts of quantitative information need to be assessed. Hall and Fischer are part of the research platform Bio4Energy Feedstockand affiliated with Umeå University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, respectively.

    The F1000 faculty member making the recommendation, David G. Oppenheimer of the University of Florida at Gainsville, U.S.A. stated in his motivation:

    "The authors' method allows segmentation of images obtained by laser scanning confocal microscopy (or other optical sectioning methods of fluorescently labelled material) followed by assignment of cell types using the Random Forest machine learning algorithm.... I expect that this package will be useful for large-scale quantitative trait loci mapping projects or any projects that require quantification of cellular phenotypes for thousands of individuals."

  • KBC Days, Umeå, Sweden

  • 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.
  • 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: Accelerated Breeding of Aspen, Umeå, Sweden

    Seminar on Accelerated Breeding of Aspen

    Place: KB2C5, Umeå University

     Host: Hannele Tuominen, Bio4Energy Feedstock
  • Seminar: Synthetic Biology and Bioengineering to Optimise Energy Crops, Umeå, Sweden

    Time: Thursday 6 October at 3 p.m.

    Plac: KB3B1 Stora hörsalen

    UPSC Seminar

    Speaker: Dominique Loqué Director of Cell Wall Engineering at the Joint BioEnergy Institute, UC Berkeley, CA, USA

    Title: Synthetic Biology and Bioengineering to Optimize Energy Crops

    Host: Totte Niittylä, Bio4Energy Feedstock

  • Thesis Defence: Processing of Continuous Fibers Based on Nanocellulose, Luleå, Sweden

    Saleh Hooshmand of the R&D platform Bio4Energy Biopolymers and Biochemical Conversion Technologies will be defending his PhD thesis Thursday 9  June 2016 from 10:00 in Room E632, Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, Sweden.

    His supervisors are professors Kristiina Oksman and Aji Mathew of the same platform.

    Opponent is professor Stephen Eichhorn, University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.

  • Thesis Defence: Xylem cells cooperate in the control of lignification and cell death during plant vascular development, Umeå, Sweden

    Xylem cells cooperate in the control of lignification and cell death during plant vascular development

    Xylem cells cooperate in the control of lignification and cell death during plant vascular development

    Escamez, Sacha

    Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Plant Physiology. Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Umeå Plant Science Centre (UPSC).ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7049-6978

    2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
    Abstract [EN]                
    The evolutionary success of land plants was fostered by the acquisition of the xylem vascular tissue which conducts water and minerals upwards from the roots. The xylem tissue of flowering plants is composed of three main types of cells: the sap-conducting tracheary elements (TE), the fibres which provide mechanical support and the parenchyma cells which provide metabolic support to the tissue. Both the TEs and the fibres deposit thick polysaccharidic secondary cell walls (SCWs), reinforced by a rigid phenolic polymer called lignin. The cell walls of TEs form efficient water conducting hollow tubes after the TEs have undergone programmed cell death (PCD) and complete protoplast degradation as a part of their differentiation. The work presented in this thesis studied the regulation of TE PCD by characterizing the function of the candidate PCD regulator METACASPASE 9 (MC9) in Arabidopsis thaliana xylogenic cell suspensions. These cell suspensions can be externally induced to differentiate into a mix of TEs and parenchymatic non-TE cells, thus representing an ideal system to study the cellular processes of TE PCD. In this system, TEs with reduced expression of MC9 were shown to have increased levels of autophagy and to trigger the ectopic death of the non-TE cells. The viability of the non-TE cells could be restored by down-regulating autophagy specifically in the TEs with reduced MC9 expression. Therefore, this work showed that MC9 must tightly regulate the level of autophagy during TE PCD in order to prevent the TEs from becoming harmful to the non-TEs. Hence, this work demonstrated the existence of a cellular cooperation between the TEs and the surrounding parenchymatic cells during TE PCD. The potential cooperation between the TEs and the neighbouring parenchyma during the biosynthesis of lignin was also investigated. The cupin domain containing protein PIRIN2 was found to regulate TE lignification in a non-cell autonomous manner in Arabidopsis thaliana. More precisely, PIRIN2 was shown to function as an antagonist of positive transcriptional regulators of lignin biosynthetic genes in xylem parenchyma cells. Part of the transcriptional regulation by PIRIN2 involves chromatin modifications, which represent a new type of regulation of lignin biosynthesis. Because xylem constitutes the wood in tree species, this newly discovered regulation of non-cell autonomous lignification represents a potential target to modify lignin biosynthesis in order to overcome the recalcitrance of the woody biomass for the production of biofuels.

    Place, publisher, year, edition, pagesUmeå University, 2016., 76 p.                
    Keyword [EN]                
    Xylem, Arabidopsis, programmed cell death, tracheary element, xylem vessel, autophagy, metacaspase, lignin, secondary cell wall, chromatin, gene expression
    National Category            
    URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-115787ISBN: 978-91-7601-400-4OAI: diva2:900504
    Public defence        
    2016-03-04, KB3A9, KBC building, Umeå University, Umeå, 13:00 (English)    

    Groover, Andrew

    Department of Plant Biology, University of California, Davis, California, USA.


    Tuominen, Hannele

    Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Plant Physiology.


    Available from:2016-02-12 Created:2016-02-04 Last updated:2016-02-11Bibliographically approved
  • Umeå Plant Science Centre 50-year Anniversary Symposium, Umeå, Sweden

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