research and development

  • 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.

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

  • 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 Researchers' Meeting, Umeå, Sweden

  • Bio4Energy Thesis Defence: Mixed fuels composed of household waste, waste wood, Umeå, Sweden

    PhD student Mar Edo Giménez will be defending her thesis Mixed fuels composed of household waste and waste wood - Characterisation, combustion behaviour and potential emissions

    Time and place: 9 a.m. at Umeå University, KBC Building, room KB.E3.03
  • BioInnovation General Assembly, Stockholm, Sweden

    BioInnovation General Assembly, Stockholm, Sweden
  • Clean-burning Cooking Solutions, Electricity, Being Developed for Africa

    The world needs clean-burning stoves for use in countryside households in third world, the Umeå Renewable Energy Meeting (UREM) 2016heard today. Many such households, for instance in Sub-Saharan Africa, rely on burning of untreated wood or agricultural residues inside the home and in simple appliances with few or no checks on polluting emissions.

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    Although international initiatives such as the Global Cookstove Alliance have made great strides in the right direction, the effect of emissions on human health of particulate matter and soot are still not well understood, Bio4Energy researcher This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. told the UREM conference. Boman leads a cross-disciplinary project in which Bio4Energy researchers from Umeå University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences collaborate with the Stockholm Environment Institute and African non-governmental organisations, of which the World Agroforestry Centre in Kenya, to evaluate current so-called clean-burning cookstoves and develop medium-sized facilities for electricity production in the Kenyan countryside.

  • 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

  • Gunnar Öquist Fellowship Awarded Bio4Energy Researcher - Again

    KU bio4energy seBio4Energy researcher Kentaro Umeki has won a Gunnar Öquist Fellowship 2016, which grants him funds and the mentorship of well-respected Swedish plant physiologist Gunnar Öquist. Photo by courtesy of Kentaro Umeki.Bio4Energy researcher This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., recruited into Bio4Energy in 2011 and placed at the Luleå University of Technology (LTU) in northern Sweden, last week received an award named for the well-respected Swedish scientist Gunnar Öquist, who is a member of the Swedish Academy of Sciences and a plant physiologist the Umeå Plant Science Centre.

    Funding body the Kempe Foundations supports the fellowship and awards it on an annual basis for the purpose of "supporting young researchers early in their career",according to a press releasefrom the LTU. The Gunnar Öquist Fellowship consists of a SEK3 million (€310,000) kroner award to be used for research activities, as well as a personal prize of SEK50,000 kroner, and the mentorship for three years of professor emeritus Öquist. For the third time since the awarding of the fellowship started five years ago, it goes to a Bio4Energy scientist. Previous Bio4Energy awardees are Judith Felten and Edouard Pesquet, both of the research and development platform Bio4Energy Feedstock.

    "It feels great! It’s a confidence boost and some kind of sign that the LTU believes in me. It shows that I grew in the last five years", Umeki said.
  • 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.
  • IVA Seminar: Effektiva framtida strategiska forskningsinvesteringar, Stockholm, Sweden

  • Lack of Funding Puts End to Large-scale Pilot Trials of BioDME and Bio-based Methanol in Sweden - Audio

    LTU Green Fuels at Pitea SEBiofuel production at large-scale pilot operations at Piteå, Sweden will cease. Photo by courtesy of the Luleå University of Technology.

    LTU Green Fuels at Piteå—Sweden's only large-scale pilot operations for the production of liquid biofuel from forestry residue—are going to cease its activities due to lack of funding, according to a press release issued by its owner, the Luleå University of Technology.

    Despite the pilot plant's having delivered about 1000 tonnes of clean, bio-based dimethyl ether (DME) and methanol, and despite the product having been successfully trialled as fuel in commercial trucking operationsby the car manufacturer Volvo, the Swedish Energy Agency had decided not to extend funding beyond the 100 million Swedish kroner it had granted for the past three years, the press release said. It appears that the current 17 employees at LTU Green Fuels will soon have to look around for other work.

    "I think it's a shame that we have to discontinue the work at the plant but I am nevertheless hopeful that the technology [developed there] has a future. It has been thoroughly verified in our pilot plant", said This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., professor at the LTU and part of the research and development platform Bio4Energy Thermochemical Conversion Technologies.

    In successive interviews since the start of Bio4Energy in 2010, he has been pointing out that for industry to take the step to commercialisation, a long-term and stable political framework is needed that is supportive of a large-scale roll out of second-generation or more advanced biofuels and co-products.

  • 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.
  • Lignin, Pyrolysis Oil, to Become 'Bio-crude' for Use in Fossil Oil Refineries, Biofuels

    Lignin hyrdocracker SP ETC 25516Hyrdocracker reactor for pre-treated biomass. Illustration by courtesy of Magnus Marklund.New pilot facilities for the upgrading of lignin (which plant matter makes up roughly a third of the wood in trees) and of pyrolysis oil to a crude bio-based oil, or "bio-crude", is being installed at Bio4Energy member organisation SP Energy Technology Center(SP ETC) at Piteå, Sweden. The oil giant Preem has positioned itself as a forerunner in the search for renewable alternatives to fossil oil in its refined products, and are financing the new infrastructure at the SP ETC together with the Swedish Energy Agency and others.

    "The technology is based on a principle in use in [fossil] oil refineries for the cracking and hydrogenation of fossil residual streams. We will be making a form of bio-crude which is adapted for going straight into a refinery, as a type of blend-in product which can be added to upgrade crude oil", said This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., CEO at the SP ETC.

    The product of the pilot operations will be entirely bio-based, with the lignin content having been previously extracted from black liquor, which is a residual stream in pulping, and the pyrolysis oil made on the premises from forestry residue, such as tree tops and branches from northern Sweden forests. Marklund said that the new facilities, small enough to fit into a standard container, would be taken into operation in the last quarter of this year with a specific lignin and pyrolysis upgrading project in mind and which would end in the first quarter of 2017.

    "In this first one the end product will be blend-in biofuels. In a longer term perspective the pilot will be used more generally [for the upgrading of] liquefied biomass", according to Marklund who is a PI on the research and development platform Bio4Energy Thermochemical Conversion Technologies.
  • 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.

  • 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.