Umeå University

  • Hur kan innovationsprogrammet RE:Source bidra till utveckling av resurs och avfallsområdet?, Umeå, Sweden

    Time: Monday 10 October 10:30 a.m.

    Place: N220 Natural Sciences Building, Umeå University

    Speaker:Evalena Blomqvist,SP in Borås/Gothenburg

    Title:Hur kan innovationsprogrammet RE:Source bidra till utveckling av resurs och avfallsområdet?

    Host: Stina Jansson, Bio4Energy Environment and Nutrient Recycling

  • KBC Days, Umeå, Sweden

  • 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.
  • 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 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • R&D Platform Meeting: System Analysis and Bioeconomy, Umeå, Sweden

  • Researchers' Night 2015, Europe wide

    Den 25 september är det dags för årets Researchers’ Night i EU. Runt om i hela Europa har du möjlighet att ta del av spännande experiment, workshops, prova-på-aktiviteter, vetenskapsshower, utställningar, science cafés och många andra möjligheter att möta forskare. Se vad som händer på någon av de 28 orterna i Sverige och heja fram din forskare i Forskar Grand Prix. Om ForskarFredag »
  • 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

  • Study of Emissions from Biodiesel Exhaust Reveals Need for Investigation of Effects of Fine Particulate Matter

    RN CB ems filter 30117Robin Nyström (left) and Christoffer Boman of Bio4Energy are checking the soot content of diesel exhaust by analysing what got caught in an emission filter. Photo by Bio4Energy.Despite the European Union transport target for its 28 countries to reach a ten per cent share of renewable energy in the overall fuel mix by 2020—and estimates by consultants CE Delft and TNO in a 2013 study ordered by the European Commission, showing that biodiesel will contribute 6.6 per cent the target—there is only relatively little science available on how best to assess emissions from biodiesel combustion, and notably of the part that is particulate matter, for the results to be relevant for human health and the environment.

    Domestic wood burning and combustion of diesel fuel in automotive engines are considered to be the two main sources of emissions of particulate matter globally. Whether these latter impact negatively on human health depends on the size, shape and composition of the particles, as well as how well the body of a person who is exposed to such emissions is able to resist their impact, for how long the exposure goes on and with which intensity. According to the authors of a 2015 Review of the Health Impact of Airborne Particulate Matter, published in Environment International, "small" particles of concern include inhalable coarse particles with a diameter of 2.5 to 10 micrometre (μm) and fine particles smaller than 2.5 μm in diameter.

    Biodiesel vs standard diesel RobinNystromTo complicate matters further, the authors of Bringing Biofuels on the Market point out that: “Raising the blending limits for biodiesel is more difficult because of the more complex diesel emission control technology and the possible presence of impurities in biodiesel. For most passenger car manufacturers substantial time would be needed to adapt the regeneration strategy for diesel particulate filters to the higher biodiesel blend”.

     The research environment Bio4Energy of Sweden has a team of scientists dedicated to delivering knowledge on the properties of particulate matter formed as a result of biofuel combustion. The researchers collaborate closely with colleagues at Northern Sweden’s largest hospital, the University Hospital of Umeå, to map the effects on human health of exposure to biofuel, and notably biodiesel emissions. In fact, last month PhD student This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. of the Bio4Energy team presented an encompassing package of work on Particle Emissions from Residential Wood and Biodiesel Combustion.
  • Swedish Government Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation Visits Bio4Energy, Umeå, Sweden

  • System Analysis Needed for Pointing Politicians, Scientists, in Right Direction on Energy

    Ibrahim Balyan SAEE 2016Sweden's energy minister Ibrahim Baylan told a conference that academic input had been vital for the government's recent Energy Agreement with opposition parties to go through. Photo by courtesy of the Luleå University of Technology.

    A conference by Bio4Energyresearchers and colleagues on the transformation of Sweden's energy system finished at Luleå last week, with keynote speaker Ibrahim Baylan, the Swedish energy minister, concluding that the recent Energy Agreement struck by the government and parties in political opposition before the summer recess hardly had been possible had the government not consulted widely with academic stakeholders.

    "He spoke about the Energy Agreement, but included a discussion on the need for research as a basis for political decision-making", said conference coordinator This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., who represents Bio4Energy's System Analysis and Bioeconomy branch.

    The agreement between the ruling Social Democrats and Greens, and the Moderate Party, Christian Democrats and Centre Party in opposition, states that Sweden aims for its economy to have zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 and for its electrical power production system to be "100 per cent renewable" by 2040.

    The 23-24 August conference, hosted by the Swedish Association for Energy Economics and the Luleå University of Technology (LTU), also heard energy profile Tomas Kåberger, professor at the Chalmers University of Technology, contribute a global perspective and, notably, talking up solar energy as having a great potential of increasing the share of renewables in the overall energy mix. He had pointed to the example of how Germany has kept subsidising solar power installations and how, subsequently, solar panels have become mainstay on German rooftops, according to professor Lundmark.

  • 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.

  • Thermal Treatment to Be Tested for Turning Waste to Resource on Space Trip - Video, Audio

    A Bio4Energy scientist at Umeå University (UmU) has won funds for conducting research that will feed into a Trash to Gas initiative started in 2012 by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and which will be stepped up in connection with the preparations of NASA astronauts' first-ever manned trip to the planet Mars in the 2030s. The trip to outer space is longer and further from Earth than any of NASA's previous manned trips and implies new challenges when it comes to handling and disposal of waste such as used garments and towels, spent food packaging, human waste and paper products. Notably, whatever is leftover cannot be smelly, nor bulky and, ideally, should be recycled for re-use.

    Researchers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center have built a prototype reactor
    designed to make something useful from the trash astronauts accumulate in space.
    The device incinerates garbage to produce methane, oxygen and water--which can
    be used for rocket fuel, breathing air and for life support. Original video clip and
    report by George Diller posted on Youtube, 20 March 2013.
  • Thesis Defence: Exploring the Relevance of Uncertainty in the Life-cycle Assessment of Forest Products, Umeå, Sweden

    Thesis Defence by Frida Royne, Bio4Energy System Analysis and Bioeconomy, Umeå, Sweden

    Advisors: Mats Tysklind and Johanna Berlin, both Bio4Energy System Analysis and Bioeconomy

    Time and place: 10 a.m. at the Large Lecture Hall of the Chemical-biological Centre, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden.