Photo by AnnaStrom2019x400A patch of mainly coniferous forest in northern Sweden, in mid-October 2019. Photo by Anna Strom© 2019.Next year, Bio4Energy scientists will kick off multiannual projects, respectively, on integrated climate assessment of using woody biomass, production of membranes to desalinate sea water and on investigating the “unknowns” of plant cell biology for the ultimate purpose of increasing biomass production. The Swedish Research Council Formas (Formas) or the Swedish Research Council (VR) granted the projects in their respective annual rounds of funding.

What uses of biomass should be preferred to minimise greenhouse gas emissions?

The first project is broad in scope and will require the researchers to use a number of system analysis models. The aim is to find out, starting from sustainably managed forests in Sweden, which type of use of the harvested biomass will maximise efficiency, in terms of using bioenergy instead of fossil fuels for the purpose of minimising greenhouse gas emissions. The findings will serve to guide decision-makers in their attempt to understand what mix of technologies to favour and, consequently, what support measures to propose.

“Understanding the climate impact of different forest biomass paths is paramount for the implementation of appropriate policy measures. The purpose of the project is to improve the effectiveness of reaching the climate targets by advancing our understanding of climate impacts of using biomass, especially trade-offs and interactions of climate effects between the biophysical and economical systems”, says the project grant application.

“In particular, we are interested in exploring the climate impact of biomass from different industrial uses—up-stream value chains—and various carbon sequestration options”, according to main applicant This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. of the Luleå University of Technology (LTU) and platform leader for Bio4Energy System Analysis and Bioeconomy. Formas is gratefully acknowledged for granting this project.

Reducing the cost of desalinating seawater by three fourths

One of Bio4Energy's research groups develops ultra-thin membranes from zeolite for different types of separations or filtration. Its members are world leading on what they do. In Bio4Energy, the group has focused on developing state-of-the-art methods for separating the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from biogas, and on perfecting their zeolite membranes as a medium for separation and filtration.

In the present project, however, 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.of the LTU have turned their focus on developing high-flux zeolite membranes for desalination and purification of seawater. The set up relies on the hypothesis that the cost of commercial seawater desalination may be cut by 75 per cent, compared with the current process in use that draws on polymeric membranes. The secret appears to be in the pores of the zeolite membranes since they can be tuned to be highly selective and permeable, to believe the project summary. 

“High-flux zeolite membranes will be developed and tested and the costs and energy consumption [of the proposed process] will be estimated”, the summary says.

As a material, zeolite can be composed of any of a large group of minerals consisting of hydrated aluminosilicates of sodium, potassium, calcium or barium. Because zeolites can be dehydrated and rehydrated, researchers use them as cation exchangers or molecular sieves.

Formas is gratefully acknowledged for granting this project.

Mapping the ‘unknowns’ of cell biology

Prestigious VR is funding this project aiming ultimately to maximise the production of biomass in trees. The scientists, led by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. of the SLU at Umeå, Sweden, are going to map and examine model plant genes whose function is yet unknown.

“We designed a genetic screen which focuses on evolutionarily-conserved single copy Arabidopsis [thaliana] genes of unknown function with predominant expression in meristematic cells. This screen identified a previously uncharacterised and essential cellular process occurring in both nuclear envelope and mitochondria in dividing plant cells. This project aims to elucidate the mechanism and function of this vital cellular process”, the researchers’ application says.

Meristem corresponds to a region of plant tissue, found chiefly at the growing tips of roots and shoots and in the cambium and which consists of actively dividing cells that form new tissue.

Bio4Energy Feedstock platform leader Niittylä will lead this project, to be carried out by postdoctoral researcher Wei Wang, in collaboration with a local biotechnology company called Agrisera, specialising in making antibodies.

Tree polymer lignin investigated for various applications

The tree polymer is lignin will be investigated for use in various applications, in three projects where Bio4Energy scientists at the LTU are co-applicants providing an important contribution:

  • Lignin based green lubricant additives enabled by reciprocal hydrogen bonding. Funded by Formas. Main applicant is Yijun Shi, Department of Engineering Sciences and Mathematics, LTU. Co-applicant is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. of the R&D platform Bio4Energy Biopolymers and Biochemical Conversion Technologies.
  • Lignin-amino acid based new green lubricants enabled by reciprocal hydrogen bonding. Funded by VR. Main applicant is Yijun Shi, Department of Engineering Sciences and Mathematics, LTU. Co-applicant is Paul Christakopoulos of the R&D platform Bio4Energy Biopolymers and Biochemical Conversion Technologies.
  • Regulation of Bio-oil molecular structure towards high performance lubricants. Funded by Formas and its Future Research Leaders’ call. Main applicant is Liwen Mu, Department of Engineering Sciences and Mathematics, LTU. Co-applicants are This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. of the R&D platform Bio4Energy Biopolymers and Biochemical Conversion Technologies and Linda Sandström of Bio4Energy Thermochemical Conversion Technologies at RISE Energy Technology Center.

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