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International Seminar on Biorefinery, Fredriksberg, Denmark
December 04, 2014 (All Day)
BiovalueSpir, University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Science. Register by 7 November 2014.
Thesis Defence: Monoterpenes to High Value-added Chemicals
December 04, 2014 (10:00)
Mikhail Golets, Bio4Energy Catalysis and Separation Platform
Thesis Defence: Spectroscopic Characterisation of Lignocellulosic Biomass, Umeå, Sweden
December 05, 2014 (10:00)
Mikael Thyrel, Bio4Energy Pretreatment and Fractionation Platform. Venue: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, room 'Björken'
Swetox Annual Workshop, Stockholm, Sweden
December 16, 2014 (All Day)
Patrik Andersson, Umeå University
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#Guro Elise Fredheim is telling Lignin 2014 Borregaard uses lignin products to make binders, dispersants, concrete &... vanilla flavouring! 5:18 pm - 27 Aug 2014#
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#Lignin 2014 has started! Leading researchers Noritsugu Terashima and Niko Geldner presented this morning. Norman Lewis to speak on lignans. 1:12 pm - 25 Aug 2014#

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In the Press

Swedish energy minister came to visit Bio4Energy: Energiministern och alumnen Ibrahim Baylan på besök, Umeå University


Swedish Minister for Energy Visits Bio4Energy: Energiministern och alumnen Ibrahim Baylan på besök, Umeå University

Bio4Energy researcher behind project: 17 miljoner till forskning om rökgaser och avloppsvatten, Arbetsliv



Italy pushes ahead with 'next generation' biofuels from waste, American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria

Småskaligt jordbruk kan mätta många munnar, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Bio4Energy researcher Joakim Lundgren and others: ”Att sluta forska om biobränslen är som att skjuta sig i foten”, Ny Teknik

Lignin: A Possible Substitute for Petrochemicals in Products - Videos Print E-mail
User Rating: / 78
Written by Anna Strom   
Monday, 08 September 2014 16:26

Lignin-2014 Art-Ragauskas Photo Anna-Strom 185x265Art Ragauskas of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, U.S.A., develops polyurethane applications from lignin, together with industrial partners. Photo by Anna Strom.Usually burnt to heat the facilities at pulp and paper-making operations after valuable carbohydrate components such as cellulose have been separated from the woody feedstock—and sometimes cursed for its tendency to stick like glue to the other components of the wood—the polymer lignin, making up almost a third of the wood in trees, has become hot property in research and development (R&D) geared at making bio-based products.

So what’s new, you might wonder. Biorefinery operators such as Borregaard of Norway and Domsjö Fabriker of Sweden have been using lignin for other products than energy for some time, mainly as a component of cement. Carbon fibres have been developed for various applications, for instance by the Swedish research institute Innventia; and there is Borregaard occupying a niche with the way in which it makes vanilla flavouring from the lignin polymer. Still, as biomass researcher John Ralph of the U.S.-based University of Wisconsin-Madison said in a recent interview with Swedish science journalists, "Nothing has come to the top yet as being a winner application" made from lignin.

Part of the reason for that is likely the complexity of lignin—making it hard to break away from the rest of the wood and perhaps even to understand—and its tendency to cling to the carbohydrates cellulose and hemicellulose inside the wood, like a cement holding them together. After all, lignin is what gives plants their sturdiness and allow them to reach their stems towards the sky despite gravity's pulling the other way.

'Zip' ligninLignin-2014 John-Ralph Photo Anna-Strom 265x177University of Wisconsin-Madison professor John Ralph, who is also a researcher at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Center, is the man whose research group has invented a method designed more easily to zip lignin apart. Photo by Anna Strom.

Either way, Ralph should know. On 27 August he presented a Lignin 2014 conference with groundbreaking fundamental research on how to alter trees from within, by introducing a modification designed to make its lignin content more malleable (watch a video excerpt of his presentation on The result would be a tree, say a poplar tree, with additional readily cleavable bonds in a part of its lignin content (in the so-called lignin backbone). The new lignin present in a tree thus modified should be easier to cleave into smaller pieces and to break away from the rest of the wood. Lignin researchers refer to this method, or rather its result, as "zip" lignin.

Future Use of Abundant Plant Polymer Focus of Lignin 2014 Conference Print E-mail
Written by Anna Strom   
Monday, 25 August 2014 15:09
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The Lignin 2014 conference started Sunday 24 August with a 'Get Together' at Umeå, Sweden, at the Umeå University Arts' Campus. Monday 25 August saw several distinguished researchers present including Japanese Noritsugu Terashima of Nagoya University, Niko Geldner of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and—last but not least—Norman Lewis of Washington State University in the U.S.A..

From Bio4Energy Henrik Serk spoke on 'Cooperative lignification of Arabidopsis xylem vessels', while Bo Zhang revealed that 'PERSIFONE2 regulates Histone H3K4 Methylation of caffeic and O-methyltransferase in Arabidopsis'. Both are affiliated with Umeå University. Moreover the head of the Bio4Energy Feedstock Platform, Björn Sundberg of the Stora Enso group, chaired a session on 'Lignin monomer biosynthesis and transcriptional regulation'.

Tuesday 26 August was a day for lignin analysis. Among a number of high-caliber speakers, analytical chemist Wout Boerjan of the University of Gent in Belgium explained how systems biology might be used to understand phenolic metabolism in trees. Others, such as Gerald Tuskan of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S.A., said that rich genomic resources facilitated progress in understanding the way in which wood is formed.

Wednesday 27 August saw the start of the industry part of Lignin 2014. A scientist in the absolute forefront of fundamental lignin research, John Ralph of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, U.S.A., told the conference about how to "design plant cell walls for deconstruction". Ralph is the man who invented the concept of "zip" lignin, a type of lignin that would be easier to separate from the rest of the wood in trees than lignin which has not been modified. In the afternoon, a cavalcade of distinguished folks on the side of applied lignin research, and on the side of product development, took the stage. University of Stellenbosch researcher Emile van Zyl (South Africa), Claus Felby of the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) and Guro Elise Fredheim of the Norwegian biorefinery group Borregaard were among them. Session chair was Bio4Energy researcher Torbjörn Lestander, professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). Also from Bio4Energy and the SLU, Amir Mahboubi presented on 'Carbon-13 tracking of wood biosynthesis in hybrid aspen'.

Finally, Thursday 28 August Art Ragauskas of Georgia Tech in the U.S., probably the world's leading researcher on the applied side of lignin science, told the conference about 'Lignin: From cell wall to material'. From the Bio4Energy Industrial Network, Hans Grundberg of the Sweden-based Domsjö Fabriker biorefinery talked about "lignin business development" and "new opportunities". Just ahead of closing Lignin 2014, Peter Axegård of Innventia described the work of that Bio4Energy member research institute to develop cost-efficient carbon fibres from lignin. And Bio4Energy researcher Sandra Winestrand of the pulp and paper maker Billerud-Korsnäs talked on 'Lignin derivatives and laccase in oxygen-scavenging films and coatings'. Such films and coatings may be used, for instance, in bio-based food packaging.

Last Updated on Friday, 29 August 2014 14:55
Lignin 2014 Conference to Discuss Industrial Applications of Abundant Plant Polymer Print E-mail
Written by Anna Strom   
Thursday, 07 August 2014 14:42

Lignin 2014: Organisers Umeå Plant Science Centre and Bio4Energy bid you welcome to Umeå! Click here to request on-site registration. At last count, 154 people had singed up to attend (20 August).

Lignin-2014-Org-Ctee Anna-StromThe Lignin 2014 organisers. From left: Leif Jönsson, Edouard Pesquet, Mattias Hedenström, Hannele Tuominen, Carlos Martín and Sacha Escamez. Photo by Anna Strom, Bio4Energy.With just over two weeks to go to the start of the Lignin 2014 international conference, its organisers express satisfaction at the wide range of speakers and attendees having signed up to hear of the latest scientific progress and future applications of lignin, one of the most abundant polymers in plants and so the wood of trees. The discussions are set to cover both the biological and chemical side of lignin research—in fact, a chief objective is to bring the two sides together in one conference—and with an entire session devoted to industrial development of lignin applications. Beginning of August, 144 people had signed up to attend the conference, together with 21 presenters who represent the absolute top-runners in the science or industrial application of lignin.

"We are quite pleased with the abstracts [or scientific summaries of presentation topics] we have received. There is a good spread between biologists and chemists, and [representatives of] a few companies are coming”, according to Bio4Energy plant biologist This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it who is an associate professor at Umeå University and the Umeå Plant Science Centre (UPSC).

Notably, confirmed speakers include John Ralph and Norman Lewis, both active at American universities; and Wout Boerjan in Belgium. All three are at the forefront of developing the basic science of lignin and notably its biosynthesis and analysis. On the side of industrial application, Martin Lersch of the multinational Borregaard biorefinery group, as well as Hans Grundberg from the Bio4Energy industrial partner Domsjö Fabriker biorefinery at Örnsköldsvik, will give talks. So will the man who summarised knowledge of the development of industrial lignin applications in a string of scientific review articles: Art Ragauskas.

Last Updated on Monday, 25 August 2014 12:30
Happy Holidays from Bio4Energy Print E-mail
Written by Anna Strom   
Sunday, 06 July 2014 13:57

Happy-Holidays-from-Bio4Energy Photo-by-Anna-StromGlorious conifers, glorious sea. Pine trees wedged against the Mediterranean. Photo by Anna Strom©.

As summer holidays approach for some of us, Bio4Energy would like to wish you a nice summer. We will be back in August, or September for some, with the same team of researchers, including those who recently swapped places with each other in the Bio4Energy branch that deals with the thermal conversion of biomass to fuels and chemicals. Click here to read about these changes.

Also in autumn 2014 Bio4Energy plans to host the following events together with its partners:  

  • Lignin 2014 – an international conference which aims to bring together top-of-the-line academic researchers with industry developing lignin applications or starting to produce (separate out) lignin on an industrial scale – Joint organisation with the Umeå Plant Science CentreUmeå, 24-28 August 2014  

  • Bio4Energy Industrial Network and SP Processum Membership Event – This last industrial network meeting in the first round of Bio4Energy will be an opportunity for industry representatives and academic researchers to discuss current or future collaborations and take joint look forwards. What are the needs of the biorefinery industry in terms of technology development? Could academia help with whole-system or process integration assessments? These and other questions are likely to be posed at this event, which looks set to include a guided tour of pilot and/or demonstration units attached to the cluster at Umeå – Umeå, 21 October 2014     

  • Bio4Energy Autumn Researchers’ Meeting – This will be the final biannual common event for Bio4Energy’s scientists in the first round of Bio4Energy, 2010-2015. There are about 250 researchers working for Bio4Energy in some capacity, across the three partner universities, Innventia, the Energy Technology Centre at Piteå, the SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden and Michigan State University of the U.S.A. Bio4Energy researchers can expect a special event, at a venue in northern Sweden to be decided – 20-21 November 2014 

Bio4Energy Thermal Conversion of Biomass: People Reshuffle, Similar Direction of Research - Video Print E-mail
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Written by Anna Strom   
Wednesday, 25 June 2014 12:59

Jocke-Lundgren Rikard-Gebart SFC-change-of-leadership 514Joakim Lundgren (left) has taken over the leadership of the Swedish Centre for Biomass Gasification from Rikard Gebart. Both are Bio4Energy researchers at the Luleå University of Technology. Photo by Leif Nyberg.

The Swedish Centre for Biomass Gasification (SFC)—in which Bio4Energy’s ‘little sister’ Bio4Gasification is a research node—has a new leader since last month. So does the Bio4Energy Thermochemical Platform, which crew develops new knowledge on the nuts and bolts of entrained-flow gasification of biomass for the production of biofuels and “green” chemicals. In fact, even Bio4Gasification has a new person at its helm.

Reasons for change

The ball went rolling because one highly talented professor had too much to do, leading both the SFC, the Bio4Energy Thermochemical Platform and—after a successful round of applications for funding—the newish Biosyngas Programme, which delivers research and development (R&D) on behalf of the LTU Green Fuels Centre at Piteå, Sweden.

So 1 May Rikard Gebart of the Luleå University of Technology (LTU) formally handed over the leadership of the SFC to another Bio4Energy researcher: Joakim Lundgren, a leading figure on system analysis and process integration in the research environment, also acting as Bio4Energy’s coordinator in the Swedish Knowledge Centre for Renewable Transportation Fuels or the f3 Centre, as it is called.Rainer-Backman DME-production-at-Pitea 614Rainer Backman of Umeå University takes over the leadership of the Bio4Energy Thermochemical Platform from this month. Photo by courtesy of Rainer Backman.

Around the same time a key PI on the Bio4Energy Thermochemical Platform, Rainer Backman of Umeå University, took over the role as the leader of the platform. Professor Backman has about 30 years of experience working in the academy and industry on various aspects of biomass gasification.

Finally, the researcher Kentaro Umeki, who was recruited into the research environment in 2011 and has been proving himself both in and outside the research laboratory even since, replaced Henrik Wiinikka as the Bio4Gasification chief coordinator. Wiinikka is a Bio4Energy researcher at the Energy Technology Centre at Piteå, a research foundation that acts as a link to industry and which has unique pilot facilities which allow scientists in the cluster to develop technology for producing synthetic gas or ready-made biofuel from forestry residue or wood.

Impact on Bio4Energy R&D development

"In my opinion all these people [are] a very good choice. I am very happy that all these guys in this case said 'yes' to jump into this. They are good coordinators, good people; both good soft and other skills. So I am very happy about this", said Bio4Energy’s vice director Marcus Öhman, professor at the LTU.

Breakdown and Combustion of Recalcitrant Biomass: Problem Solving by Bio4Energy Researchers Print E-mail
Written by Anna Strom   
Friday, 30 May 2014 10:29

Patchwk-by-Nils-SkoglundAsh Chemistry and Fuel Design, Focusing on Phosphorus-rich Biomass, is the title of a recent report by Nils Skoglund, who is part of a group at Umeå University which develops environmentally-safe methods for burning biomass and recycling essential nutrients such as phosphorus. Photo collage by courtesy of Nils Skoglund.

Bio4Energy researchers have started to carve out a niche for themselves as specialists in dealing with recalcitrant biomass, be it from coniferous trees, agricultural residue or organic waste, a string of recent research results would suggest. While some work to control the organic content of the biomass, others break ground on biomass combustion where the focus is rather on ash chemistry and emission control. In the latter case, the focus is on the inorganic content of biomass.

Looking first at the organic biomass content, on the Bio4Energy Biochemical Platform they lead the world in solving thorny problems to do with the breakdown of wood or forestry residues from spruce trees for the production biofuels and "green" chemicals, a recent evaluation of Bio4Energy 2010-2014 has shown.

Going hand in hand with recent work by these biochemists to demonstrate a new method for large-scale bioethanol production—which makes use of a residual stream previously thought of as an environmental problem—new separation processes that make the wood release its sugars more easily have been put forward and compared by the scientists, who are specialised either in industrial biotechnology or catalytic processes and, in particular, the breakdown of biomass using ionic liquids. (Click on the 'Research' menu heading of this website to access recent Scientific Articles.)

In a recent article in the BMC Biotechnology scientific journal, they explain that, "Lignocellulosic biomass is highly recalcitrant and various pre-treatment techniques are needed to facilitate its effective enzymatic hydrolysis to produce sugars for further conversion to bio-based chemicals. Ionic liquids (ILs) are of interest in pre-treatment because of their potential to dissolve lignocellulosic materials including crystalline cellulose.

Bio-based Material Research Set to Get Boost in Possible Second Round of Bio4Energy Print E-mail
User Rating: / 4
Written by Anna Strom   
Friday, 23 May 2014 12:11

Stina-Jansson PPBio4Energy researcher Stina Jansson won an award from the Swedish king to develop international collaboration in her new research on making materials from biomass waste. Her colleague Kristiina Oksman (left) is a materials' researcher in Bio4Energy. Photography by Bio4Energy.Kristiina-Oksman PIn a possible new round of Bio4Energy, which research environment so far has been granted funding for the years 2010-2015, research to develop bio-based materials for specific industrial applications is likely to get a more prominent role.

While, thus far, one of Bio4Energy's groups at the Luleå University of Technology (LTU) in Sweden has developed a composite material being upscaled for use in water purification applications, others are looking into what might be made out of the tree polymer lignin. Yet others work to turn cellulose derivatives into textiles or similar products.  

Also, recently, a Bio4Energy PI working to rid thermal biomass conversion processes of polluting emissions, launched a new initiative to create "smart" materials with a low environmental impact from low-value waste fractions of biomass.

"We want to look at bio sludge, forestry or agricultural waste, municipal waste and food waste—or any such low-value bio-based materials which are currently not put to good use" and which are most often burned to produce heat, according to the Umeå University assistant professor Stina Jansson who leads a research group on Bio4Energy’s Environmental Platform.

"There has been much interest taken in creating applications for polymer-based materials, but these have not always turned out to be sustainable. Here we want to create materials which help close the loop in terms of a product’s impact on the environment.

Proliferation of Biorefinery Due in a Decade, Seminar Hears Print E-mail
Written by Anna Strom   
Thursday, 10 April 2014 20:38

Bio4Energy-at-New-Products-SeminarBio4Energy presenters at a New Products from Forests Seminar at Umeå, Sweden, 9 April. From left: Anders Nordin, Leif Jönsson, Stellan Marklund and Sylvia Larsson. Photo by Bio4Energy.

Bio4Energy and the Forest Refine research project of Biofuel Region held an open seminar 9 April to showcase research—and in Bio4Energy’s case also development—along a biorefinery value chain based on woody feedstock and adapted to conditions in the northern Sweden and in Finland.

Sixty-five people from academia, industry, local or regional authorities, as well as a journalist, attended the seminar, New Products from Forests—Supply Chains and Biorefinery Process, which marked the end of the Forest Refine project which has been studying the supply chain to biorefineries of forest-sourced raw materials.

Bio4Energy wants to thank all who took part for their interest and for the discussion their many questions to the presenters brought about. This looks set to continue 8 May as Biofuel Region, Åkroken Science Park Biobusiness Arena are to host a follow-up seminar to discuss the policy context in which the biorefinery technology development takes place, with an eye to the upcoming elections of the next European Parliament from 22 to 25 May this year.

The presentations from the New Products from Forest Seminar are published here and on the Forest Refine pages of the website of Biofuel Region.

Below are few highlights of the discussions 9 April, which took place at Umeå, Sweden, at the Bio4Energy member organisation the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU).

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