innovation

  • A Biorefinery Research Environment

    tree_on_globeThe research environment Bio4Energy aims to create highly efficient and environmentally-sound biorefinery processes—including methods and tools for making products such as biofuels, "green" chemicals and new bio-based materials—which draw on biomass sourced from forests or organic waste as a 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 designing or planting of the first seed for growing a tree, through to the development of consumer products that can be commercialised and add value for their soundness in terms of economic, environmental and social impact. 

    Some of the things Bio4Energy aims to do differently are to use all parts of the tree and to recycle or recover by-products that typically go to waste in mainstream forestry operations. Some of the Bio4Energy scientists—there are more than 220 of them—are developing processes by which to turn such residual streams into energy, high-value specialty chemicals or other bio-based products.

    Research organisation

    At the core of Bio4Energy are two process platforms. They are Bio4Energy Thermochemical Conversion Technologiesand Bio4Energy Biopolymers and Biochemical Conversion Technologies. Researchers on the two research and development (R&D) platforms turn out new or improved processes for making advanced biofuels, such as dimethyl ether or second-generation bioethanol; new bio-based materials or "green" chemicals which, in turn, may be used as building blocks in bio-based products. These may be plastics or pharmaceuticals, coatings, liners, adhesives or a number of other things; all based on woody feedstock or organic waste as a raw material.

    The research environment Bio4Energy also has a team that studies and develops the woody feedstock. Simply put, researchers on the R&D platform Bio4Energy Feedstock, hosted by Umeå Plant Science Centre, make "better" trees. Since Bio4Energy is based in Scandinavia, a large part of which sits in the boreal belt, the foremost feedstock for the technology processes being developed derives from spruce and pine trees, or residue from industrial processes in which they are used, such as pulping. However, poplar or hybrid aspen trees are also being studied and the question put whether these tree species may be grown successfully on northern latitudes. A part of the Materials and Bioscience branch of the research institute RISE is part of the platform Bio4Energy Feedstock and has developed an encompassing database by which genetic data may be cross-read with data on mechanical characteristics of trees: the Bio4Energy Traits Database.

    The R&D platforms Bio4Energy Wood Pre-processing and Bio4Energy Chemical Catalysis and Separation Technologies, for their part, are there to facilitate the journey that the carbohydrate and aromatic content of the biomass must make for it to be converted to products, as well as a cost-competitive alternative to petrochemicals. Seemingly small inventions in these platforms may make all the difference in terms of the efficiency of the thermal or biochemical conversion of biomass to fuels or chemicals. The task then of the platform Bio4Energy System Analysis and Bioeconomyis to make sure various processes, such as in a biorefinery, function with maximal efficiency in terms of energy use and as a unit. In a biorefinery a number of processes and their stream of primary and side products have to function efficiently together. This is Bio4Energy's most recent R&D platform and its members also carry out integrated market analyses and environmental system analyses.

    Finally the task of the platform Bio4Energy Environment and Nutrient Recyclingis to check and make sure that the methods and tools being developed by the other six platforms have a low or no detrimental impact on the environment, with the aim of 'closing the loop' in terms of only inputting renewable raw materials and limiting noxious emissions to air, ground and water to a strict minimum. In the first programme period of Bio4Energy, 2010-2016, the platform's dual foci were placed on system analysis assessing mainly climate change-inducing emissions of bio-based processes, on the one hand, and on limiting organic emissions at source, on the other. In Bio4Energy's second programme period, 2017-2021, the perspective has been expanded to encompass resource efficiency along the value chain of biorefinery products and calculating the cost of various options for making sure biorefinery operations are sustainable.

    One vision, many partners

    A large number of industrial operators have endorsed Bio4Energy and are part of a Bio4Energy Industrial Network. The scientists cooperate with them to develop advanced biofuels, "green" chemicals or other bio-based products, such as new materials made using nanotechnology. Another strand of work focuses on eliminating noxious emission or undesirable residues from existing industrial processes. For instance, methods are being developed to convert biomass ashes and sludge into renewable energy, liming materials or low-polluting fertilizers. In some cases, high-temperature processes in combination with filters that capture particulate matter and heavy metals will be used to rid the biorefinery process of toxic organic compounds.

    Another promising line of research in Bio4Energy targets the capture and recycling of carbon dioxide (CO2), the international reference for greenhouse gases. New technologies for CO2capture and reuse that rely on catalytic conversion are being invented. When it comes to development, Bio4Energy researchers have realised inventions which has led to new pilot facilities being installed (just off the campus of the lead organisation Umeå University) for the pre-treatment of biomass by roasting (torrefaction), at a BTX Fornax facility. Two other groups have made ample use of Sweden's only demonstration unit for bioethanol production, the Biorefinery Demonstration Plantat Örnsköldsvik, Sweden. Yet others collaborate with Swedish pellet industry, characterising and modulating biomass materials at the Biomass Technology Centrewhich hosts pilot facilities for the separation and fractionation of biomass at SLU Röbäcksdalen, at Umeå, Sweden. Further north, at Piteå, Bio4Energy researchers are an integral part of a team tasked with trialling, perfecting and upscaling production of biofuels made via the gasification route. At the LTU Green Fuelscentre, "ultra" low-polluting dimethyl ether (or bioDME) fuel is made from a residual product of the pulping process, black liquor, using entrained-flow gasification technology. Part of the same industrial site, the RISE Energy Technology Center has facilities for optimising gasification and pyrolysis processes and serves as link between academia and industry.

    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 and research on bioenergy, biotechnology and forest management. They are Umeå University, Luleå University of Technologyand the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences at Umeå. A large number of Sweden-based firms and a handful of innovation and research institutes have signed up to become partners. Of these RISE (groups in the Materials and Bioscience and Bioeconomy branches, respectively) and the ETC Energy Technology Center are founding members of Bio4Energy. RISE Processum and Piteå Science Park, both of which organisations are close to or representing industry, are the Strategic Partners of Bio4Energy. Several other cooperation partners could be mentioned here.

    Moreover, scientific collaboration is underway with research organisations or groups in Europe as well as in the U.S.A., Australia, Canada, China, Korea, Japan, Russia, Taiwan, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, South Africa and other countries. The Bio4Energy research programme is committed to the sustainable use of natural resources and aware of the European Union's efforts to combat climate change by lessening the reliance on fossil fuels and increasing the 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, Bio4Energy is a member of the European Bio-based Industries' Consortium, which has seen the birth of a Bio-based Industries' Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) as a part of the European Union's Joint Technology Initiatives' process. In Sweden, the programme part of Bio4Energy is a member of BioInnovationa cross-sectoral programme designed to promote bio-based innovationand of the Swedish Centre for Renewable Transportation Fuels.

    Bio4Energy aims to be a driving force for innovation and thereby the creation of small and medium-sized enterprises. It has set up its own Graduate School on the Innovative Use of Biomass 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. At Umeå University, a new undergraduate training programme was unveiled at the end of 2013 and is designed to train future engineers in Bioresource Technology.

    Bio4Energy was born in late 2009, when the Swedish government agreed to offer a constellation of 44 mostly Swedish biorefinery researchers its support for developing over five years a Strategic Research Environment, tasked with drawing together some of the best brains in bioenergy and biorefinery research and development, as well as create links and collaboration within the academic cluster and cooperation with industrial actors.

    The government's generous support, topped up with contributions from the member universities and external funds won as a result of it, have allowed Bio4Energy to expand from the initial 44 to 235 researchers*(in March 2014 - and hovering between 235 and 250 members in 2015), originating from a number of countries but affiliated with one or more of Bio4Energy's founding member organisations. In 2009, more than 20 industrial companies pledged their support for the creation of Bio4Energy by signing letters of endorsement.

    For more information: See Bio4Energy's Clean-Tech Article (available also from the drop-down menu of the 'Research' heading) or an article in Swedishby Umeå University Information Services. As of June 2015, Bio4Energy has its own news page in Swedish on the Umeå University website and a programme page on the Luleå University of Technology website.

    Press and mediaare most welcome to contact Bio4Energy Communications by e-mail to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at: +46 90 786 5247 (weekdays).

    *In November 2017 Bio4Energy had approximately 220 researchers.

    --
    Hereunder is the standard sentence which researchers may put towards the end of their scientific articles to acknowledge or thank Bio4Energy for its support:

    We thank Bio4Energy, a Strategic Research Environment appointed by the Swedish government, for supporting this work.
    --

  • Bio-based Industries' Consortium General Assembly, Brussels, Belgium

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

    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.

  • Bio4Energy Has No Vacancies

    Bio4Energy is not hiring at the moment, but please check
    back with us regularly.Conifer by ASSnuggling up to a conifer in June, in northern Sweden. Photo by Anna Strom©.

    Thank you for your interest.
  • Bio4Energy Results on Large-scale Hydrogen Production Part of IVA 'Progress in Research & Technology 2017' Speech - Video

    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.

  • Bio4Energy Thesis Defence: Three-dimensional Structured Carbon Foams, Umeå, Sweden

    Bio4Energy PhD student at Umeå University Tung Ngoc Pham will be defending his thesis Three-dimensional structured carbon foam: Synthesis and Applications Monday 14 November at 1 p.m. in room KB.E3.01, KBC Building of Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden. 
  • BioInnovation General Assembly, Stockholm, Sweden

    BioInnovation General Assembly, Stockholm, Sweden
  • BioInnovation General Assembly, Stockholm, Sweden

  • Biorefinery Pilot Research

    Biorefinery Pilot Research participantsExtent and credits: 7.5 ECTS

    Course coordinator: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


    Objectives

    On completion of the course, students will:

    • Be able to describe the biorefinery technologies represented in pilot scale facilities within the Bio4Energy infrastructure and know how to get access to them;

    • Be able to explain and discuss models for the roles of academia and functions of technical innovation systems and to critically evaluate real research facility cases based on these models;

    • Be aware of essentials regarding sampling, building of large-scale experimental equipment, fund raising, and intellectual property rights and;

    • Have gained access to interdisciplinary exchange of knowledge and ideas through networking activities.


    Dates and locations

    Winter 2018: Piteå, Sweden  Planned start early March 2018

    RISE Energy Technology Centre at Piteå, Piteå Science Park

    March 2018: Örnsköldsvik, Sweden

    Processum Pilot Park, MoRe Research, Biorefinery Demonstration Plant

    May/June 2018: Umeå, Sweden

    Biomass Technology Centre; Umeå Plant Science Centre; torrefaction and algae pilot facilities, respectively


    Contents

    The course consists of:

    • On-site demonstration of equipment and technology, lectures and laboratory work;

    • Lectures on essential subjects for large-scale biorefinery or bioenergy research and;

    • A project assignment, typically a case study of a technical innovation system at one of the pilot plants in the cluster.


    Application and prerequisites

    To apply for enrolment in Biorefinery Pilot Research, mail to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    For enquiries regarding the course content, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • Clean-burning Cookstoves, Technology for Local Electricity Production to Be Developed for Africa

    CB cookstoves GroupA 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.
  • Conditioning with Reducing Agents Shown to Raise Yields in Advanced Biofuel Production

    CM slurry AS231115Carlos 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.

  • EU Project Mobile Flip Final Seminar, Umeå, Sweden

  • 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."

  • 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.

  • 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.

    PCh-UR-AK-LTU_B4E
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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.

  • SP Seminar on Nano Materials, Stockholm, Sweden

    The programme starts at 08:30 with coffee and registration. The first seminar starts at 09:00 with a presentation on the pilot facility for nanocrystalline cellulose, a project that SP, Holmen, MoRe Research and Melodea have been working on together. The seminars that follow will look in more detail at how the material can be used in practical applications. The day will finish at 12:00 when we will have lunch together.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
                               
    A PART OF SWEDEN – BIO-ECONOMY AND NANOCRYSTALLINE CELLULOSE AT SP
                                Forest, waterways and agriculture – SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden is working with Holmen, MoRe Research and Melodea on a project that makes the most of Sweden’s strength in new research areas. The pilot facility for nanocrystalline cellulose is expected to be ready to start this year and will make it possible to carry out larger-scale tests on the material.

    Markus Norström, SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden

                                                       
                               
    BIO-BASED MATERIALS ARE BETTER – COMPOSITE MATERIALS ON A NANO SCALE
                                One of the advantages of bio-based materials is that they do not run out in the same way as fossil materials. It is therefore important from a sustainability perspective that we make the switch. Blatraden has extensive experience of developing new bio-based composite materials, production methods and applications.

    Tord Gustafsson, Blatraden AB

                                                       
                               
    UNIQUE APPLICATIONS OF CELLULOSE NANOCRYSTALS (CNC) IN OPTOELECTRONICS
                                Nanocrystalline cellulose is a material of the future. They have huge possibilities and potential in areas involving electronic and optical components, such as in displays. But what makes nanocrystalline cellulose special?

    Wadood Hamad, University of British Columbia, Canada

                                                       
                               
    NANOCELLULOSE IN FOOD - THICKENER, STABILIZER AND FUNCTIONAL INGREDIENT
                                The range of possible applications of nanocellulose is enormous. One area of use is as a thickener and stabilizer in food. Thanks to its structure, nanocellulose has some exciting properties – how would you like to be able to change how it feels to eat?

    Mats Stading, SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, Department for Food and Bioscience

                                                       
                               
    LIGHT, STRONG AND POROUS - THE MAKING OF BIOBASED FOAM
                                Shaul Lapidot is one of the founders of Melodea. Their foam material is environmentally friendly and – you guessed it –made from nanocrystalline cellulose. The result is a light but strong and porous foam that can be used in anything from shoe soles to insulation.

    Shaul Lapidot, Melodea, Israel

                                                       
                               
    NATURAL PERFORMANCE ENHANCER IN PAINTS AND COSMETICS
                                For some time now, the Norwegian company Borregaard has been using wood fibres to generate cellulose at the microscopic level. One of the results is Exilva, a microfibrillated cellulose that can be used to increase the performance of everything from paints to cosmetics.

    Ali Moosavifar, Borregaard, Norway

                                                       
           
      World Trade Center, Klarabergsviadukten 70, Stockholm, meeting room Atlanta

            

       

  • Swedish Government Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation Visits Bio4Energy, Umeå, Sweden

  • Thermal Treatment of Sludge Could Boost Phosphorus Resources, Solve Waste Problem

    MarcusOhman 2916rsBio4Energy 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.

    Bio4Energy researchers are developing a new efficient method for phosphorus recovery using thermal treatment of sludge from municipal waste treatment facilities or pulp and paper operations. Once implemented, the scheme is expected to provide for a reduction of the risk of contamination of food and feed crops by heavy metals—as well as reduce the problem of how to dispose of toxic waste sludge—and produce an economic benefit for industry. Research leader This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. said that the technology could be ready for industrial uptake within a decade.

    "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.