Research

Research in BRC-OULU focuses on biomass conversion. The plants growing in a northern climate have not only potentially increased amounts of bulk biomass but also a substantial amount of bioactive secondary metabolites produced via complex biosynthetic routes and mechanisms. The first prerequisite for northern plant biomass exploitation is an adequate understanding of these biosynthetic routes and their regulation, molecular and biochemical characterization, and technological valorization in a global context.

Biomass production

The Plant Biology group focuses their research efforts to the biotechnological applications including the characterization of bioactive compounds of use for the exploitation of northern plant species, the role of symbiotic organisms in biomass production, and the potential role of transgenic trees and other biotech methods in future plantation forestry.

Chemical analyses

Research groups in chemistry have a long history of collaboration in separation techniques, organic analytical techniques with high resolution MS and MS/MS capabilities combined with LC and/or GC techniques, and multi-dimensional high-resolution homonuclear and heteronuclear NMR spectroscopy. The work has included characterization of the chemical composition of samples, development of sample handling and separation from complex matrices. The development and execution of combined quantitative and qualitative analyses in high-throughput mode provides a significant amount of simultaneously detected data on the analytes. Also, innovative measurement technologies are being pursued and applied, including most recently the development of a reciprocal magnetic bead detector platform for ultrasensitive volumetric biosensors.

Biorefining

In non-wood biorefining, research inspiration has been drawn from the existing technological gaps in the sustainable utilization of lignocellulosics for biofuels and chemicals. The hydrolysis of biomass, bioprocessing of high-value fractions from food and forest industry residues (e.g. the enzymatic functionalization of lignin and the refining of potato waste), the production of chemicals from non-wood cellulose fractions and organosolv lignins, and the application of zeolite membranes in separation processes have been foci of experimental, modelling and conceptual design studies. On-going investigations are also targeting industrial waste streams as a prolific source of bioenergy and the collection of valuable components through chemical treatments such as catalytic wet air oxidation and various liquid/gaseous oxidants. Novel catalytic reaction media and the catalytic conversion of sugars to valuable end products (e.g. butanol) cover these topics in the framework of experimental, modelling and conceptual design studies in close collaboration with industrial partners.

Biomaterials

In the area of biomaterials and end-use products the focus is on micronization, chemical modification and functionalization of lignocelluloses and cellulose-based materials and use of functional biocomponents and industrial residues (e.g. ash fractions) in concrete, cement and inorganic composite manufacture. Contemporary research is concerned with the utilization of modified celluloses in the manufacturing of nanocelluloses, green chemicals and hybrid biomaterials. Vast application horizon targets specifically the particular soluble cellulose derivatives with tailored chemical functionalities in biocomposite, nanopaper, film, membrane and adsorbent applications. Our novel bio-based chemicals are designed to be used as flocculants, coagulants or chemicals aids in e.g. rheology modification for water purification and metal adsorption. One prominent area of focus is the preparation of conducting organic materials and materials for use in optoelectronics, and subsequently the utilization of these materials in devices such as organic solar cells and OLEDs, as the  highly transparent hydrophobic nanocellulose materials are excellent barriers against oxygen and humidity.

Last updated: 20.6.2013