"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.
Bio4Energy researchers Edouard Pesquet and Delphine Ménard in the laboratory at the Umeå Plant Science Centre in Sweden, checking on some of the proteins they found. Photo by Bio4Energy.
Plant biologists have long tried to come up with a method for making trees produce large amounts of easily extractable biomass for making renewable products such as biofuels and "green" chemicals. Indeed, international conferences such as Lignin 2014 have seen scores or well-respected scientists—biologists and chemists alike—brood the reasons why successful attempts to increase biomass production have led to the making of sample plants whose stems and branches sag in sad poses or to increased difficulty at the steps of extracting and separating the main components of wood: cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin.
Whereas most of these attempts were aimed at trying to increase the production of biomass within the plant cell, a team of scientists based in Sweden and the UK came up with the idea to try to lay bare the processes responsible for the organisation of the cells in the plant's secondary cell wall. Thus the focus is no longer on maximising biomass production, but rather on finding out the exact way in which a plant goes about building its cell walls from within and who is responsible for doing what in that process. The researchers found as many as 605 proteins hard at work, performing specific and mostly non-overlapping tasks to control aspects of the cell wall's organisation such as its thickness, homogeneity, cortical position and patterns.
Bio4Energy wants to thank its members, stakeholders and funders for its five first years of building a research environment that links up key academic and business organisations actively trying to promote biorefinery—the invention and production of advanced biofuels, bio-based chemicals and materials from woody biomass or organic waste.
To do so, and to spread the word further afield, Bio4Energy would like to show you two short films that are an attempt to summarise who we are and what we do.
In film one, the Bio4Energy programme manager takes viewers by the hand and describes the fundaments of the research environment. We also step into the working world of three Bio4Energy Research and Development Platforms: Feedstock, Pretreatment and Fractionation, as well as Catalysis and Separation. We visit the scientists’ greenhouse were hybrid aspen plants are grown to make better trees for bio-based production and Sweden's only pilot plant for the roasting of biomass—torrefaction—for the ease of handling and converting woody and starch-based biomass into fuels and chemicals.
In film two, we meet the coordinator of the Bio4Energy Graduate School who says students interested in biorefinery based on wood or organic waste will get a "unique" experience in the Bio4Energy Graduate School. We hear about the work on Bio4Energy's "process" platforms: The Bio4Energy Thermochemical and Biochemical Platform, respectively; and tour the thermal conversion whizzes' labs at Umeå University.
Bio4Energy has gone from being a constellation of 44 enthusiastic researchers in 2009, to becoming a full-blown research environment with about 240 members across three universities, four research institutes and with a network of industrial partners in Sweden and beyond.
Thank you to our sponsors, members and stakeholders for believing in Bio4Energy!
Bio4Energy researcher Stina Jansson (left) opens the 14th International Congress on Combustion By-products and Their Health Effects, at Umeå, Sweden. Photo by Lisa Lundin.Toxic emissions of dioxins and flame retardants in connection with biomass burning and other uses were two much discussed topics at this year's International Congress on Combustion By-products and their Health Effects, including on the conference sidelines, according to a Bio4Energy researcher in charge of PIC 2015.
"Especially the session on flame retardants and the speech by Åke Bergman [of Swetox and the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology] was very interesting. A representative from IKEA also described how in some countries they have to add flame retardants to their furniture even though they do not want to" because of laws in these countries which mandate it, said Jansson, who is a senior lecturer at Umeå University, with reference to the multinational furniture giant headquartered in Sweden.
Magnus Marklund and his team at the SP ETC will be able to continue the development of applications of biomass-based pyrolysis oil, thanks to new funding grants from the Swedish Energy Agency and Kempe Foundations. Photo by Maria Fäldt.Pyrolysis of biomass—thermochemical decomposition of wood or organic waste at elevated temperatures and with minimal presence of oxygen—could be an "interesting" option in a transition to replacing today's fossil oil with renewable alternatives, according to a Bio4Energy expert on the thermal conversion of biomass to fuels and chemicals. Thus far, however, lack of knowledge about the composition of the bio-oil obtained from pyrolysis of wood or woody waste has been a hindrance efficiently to design techniques for producing and using such bio-oil, to believe researchers in Bio4Energy at the SP Energy Technology Center (SP ETC) at Piteå, in Sweden.
After five years of research in Bio4Energy, and three new funding grants enabling the start of two research projects and the purchase of state-of-the-art instrumentation, that may be about to change.
"With the new funding from the Energy Agency for the research projects and for a state-of-the-art analytic instrument from Kempe we are going to complement, strengthen and inventory what is being done on an international top level.
Bio4Energy is upgrading its website and would like to ask all visitors please for a little patience. We are receiving the kind help of web developer Simon Birve of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences to tweak formats and modules in shape.
We started the upgrade 4 June 2015 and expect to need a week-to-ten days to have this "new" bio4energy.se fully functional.
Actors from the chemical and forestry industries in Sweden, as well as academia and research institutes, have worked together since 2012 to assess the feasibility of plastic makers' at Stenungssund switching part of their raw material base from petrochemical to woody feedstock. Their report shows it is possible but that political support measures would be needed to make the production of "green" chemicals cost efficient on a commercial scale. Photo by courtesy of SP Processum.In terms of technology, the chemical industry at Stenungssund, Sweden, could make the switch today to a renewable raw material as a partial base for its production, according to a recent report from a Swedish national Forest Chemistry project, using existing technology for making plastics from petrochemicals.
However, for the industry to achieve a level of profitability when using wood or woody waste as feedstock comparable to that of using chemicals refined from fossil oil, political support measures similar to those in place for certain types of bioenergy production would be needed, the report authors from SP Processum and Chalmers Technical University say.
The research in Forest Chemistry focused on three tracks of the chemical-making operations: Production of butanol, olefins and methanol extracted from the sulphate process of pulping operations. An environmental impact assessment was performed by Bio4Energy researchers at the SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden in the form of a life-cycle assessment attempting to gauge the environmental and climatic impact of switching 25 per cent of the raw material base for the totality of the production at the industrial cluster to woody feedstock, as compared with a continued used of petrochemical feedstock.
"We have examined the preconditions both for processes in which cellulose-based ethanol and methanol made by gasification of raw materials from the forest are produced as starting materials from the production of chemicals and plastics. The project results show that it is feasible to use existing techniques, even if additional technological progress is welcome as it would make the processes more efficient.
"Looking at the technical side of things is very important since, in addition to bulk products, one could make high value-added products. There is good reason to continue the work, for instance on lignin products", according to Jönsson.
Bio4Energy’s LCA researchers on the project stressed the importance of assessing the sustainability of products coming out of the cluster along their collective value chain.