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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 Council announced 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.

Multi-scale Carbonised Lignin Nano Materials with Tailored Structure for High Electrochemical Capacitance

The aim is to make carbon materials with electrochemical properties, by applying nanotechnology on lignin, an aromatic polymer found in plants and making up about one third of the wood in trees. While the source of the lignin is not disclosed, it will be modulated for ulterior use as so-called super capacitators to be used in energy-storage applications. Other uses may include protecting shields, sensing mats and batteries. Bio4Energy material expert Kristiina Oksman, professor at the Luleå University of Technology (LTU), heads the project, which is a prolongation of research enabled by the Bio4Energy Strategic Funds.

Fundamental Studies of Chemical Speciation in Ash Fractions from Thermal Conversion of Biomass and Waste Streams, Focussing on Phosphates and Heavy Metals

In this second project, Bio4Energy junior PI Nils Skoglund will turn himself into a resource for those working to lay bare fundamental mechanisms guiding reactions in ash to be used as fertilizer and which is a residue from processes involving combustion or gasification of biomass, for instance in bioenergy operations. With a fresh Enabling Grant to support his work, Skoglund will be dividing this time between Umeå University in Sweden, and the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in California. The latter is host to internationally coveted research equipment known as the Advanced Light Source which, through its so-called beamlines, enables studies of materials down to their smallest components.

Electricity-driven Microbial Symbiosis for the Production of Complex CO2-neutral Chemicals

Carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that is emitted in abundance through the use of petrochemicals in car engines and everyday products, will be captured and turned into liquid fuels using electricity produced from renewable energy sources. Bio4Energy researchers at the LTU Ulrika Rova, Kerstin Ramser, Magnus Sjöblom and Paul Christakopoulos have teamed up with partners at the University of Girona (Spain) and La Trobe University of Australia to develop, “a bioprocess based on electricity-driven microbial reactions for the production of CO2-neutral industrial chemicals”. This is futuristic work to keep an eye on.

Novel Signalling Pathways from Secondary Cell Walls*

Ewa Mellerowicz, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, sent this report: "Most biomass comes from activity of a so-called vascular cambium, producing wood. Cambial activity is coordinated within the plant by hormones, and regulated by external and endogenous factors. Others and we have recently observed that some types of secondary wall alterations in wood lead to increased cambial growth, raising a possibility of a novel type of cambium regulation from within the stem. In this project, we set an ambitious goal to identify key molecular players involved in this novel type of signalling and to propose a model for such growth regulation".


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