Bio4Energy 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.
Plant 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 application opened this month to close mid-January 2018.
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.
While the future direction of research on the programme is yet to be unveiled, and a first call for project proposals launched at the turn of the year, the foci of the work during 2014-2017 could be an indication of what is to come:
Large-scale production of biofuels;
Geographical placement of production units, e.g. biorefineries;
Socioeconomic effects of using renewable feedstock in fuel making instead of petrochemicals.
Contribution by Bio4Energy and partners
Joakim Lundgren represents Bio4Energy as a member of the Board of the Swedish Knowledge Centre for Renewable Transportation Fuels. Photo by courtesy of the LTU.To cap off the first programme period, the actors of the Renewable Fuels and Systems’ programme are inviting stakeholder to a conference 25 and 26 October, to share results from 29 projects. Bio4Energy researchers are part of seven of them:
Danil Korelskiy, a former Bio4Energy student specilising in membrane technology, has moved on to work with the multinational Beckers Group, at Beckers Industrial Coatings in Stockholm. Photo by courtesy of Danil Korelskiy.A number of Bio4Energy graduates—former students at the PhD or postdoctoral level—have moved on to work in industry at the end of their training. Some have gone to small- and medium-sized companies, such as SEKAB, or to larger companies or groups, like BillerudKorsnäs. Conversely, there are examples of PIs who have moved from employment at a commercial company to join the ranks of Bio4Energy researchers, or from the academy to join a research institute.
With a background in Chemical Engineering, Russian-born Korelskiy has been specialising in membrane technology. The Beckers Group, for its part, say they lead the world when it comes to industrially-designed and pre-painted coatings applied to metal sheets and composite panels for roofs or domestic appliances, together with a handful of North American and Asian companies, according to the group's website and Korelskiy.
Scientist in Bio4Energy and academic partners have created a catalyst for water splitting into hydrogen and oxygen which system, if brought to scale, they say could render cost efficiency to large-scale water electrolysis systems. The intention is for these latter to be powered by electricity made from solar energy or another renewable source.
The concept could be used to produce sufficiently large amounts of hydrogen for this to be a cost-competitive energy carrier in the production of diesel or jet fuel. Springer Nature published the results last month in its Scientific Reportsseries.
What the researchers spread over academic institutions in Sweden, Finland and Vietnam set out to do was not necessarily to find the most productive catalyst, but rather one that was cheap, environmentally benign and—above all—performed with great stability and potential for scale up.
“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.
For a long time, the selection of fuels for biomass combustion, in terms of avoiding problems such as slagging and fouling of the reactors, often was carried out based on trial and error. About a decade into the 21st century, a group of Sweden-based researchers with long-standing experience in high-temperature conversion of woody feedstock to heat and power started to mull over a more systematic approach to assessing the reactions in thermal conversion of the chief trouble-making content of the biomass: the inorganic compounds forming the ash.
In 2012, the scientist, brought together under the umbrella of Bio4Energy, published an article on Ash Transformation Chemistry during Combustion of Biomass in the interdisciplinary scientific journal Energy & Fuels by the American Chemical Society (ASC). The article describes a conceptual model by which any type of biomass—whether originating from wood, woody or agricultural residue or other types of combustible waste—may be characterised, and thus understood, in terms of the basic chemical reactions that take place during thermal conversion of biomass into heat, power, fuels and chemicals.