Research themes

Sustainable materials and systems


Sustainable production and use of advanced steels

Steel research at the University of Oulu is multidisciplinary, involving physical and process metallurgy, applied mathematics, biomimetics and mineralogy, as well as chemical, mechanical, production, and control engineering. Specialities include high-strength stainless steel and the fundamentals of ultrahigh-strength tough steel. In these fields the university is ranked as one of the best research institutes in the world.

Catalysts as enablers for environmental technologies

Nearly all industrial production is based on the use of catalysts in processes. The University of Oulu has long worked to build a profile as a pioneer in the study of catalyst-based sustainable processes and innovative environmental technologies. The broad-based skills and knowledge at the University of Oulu offer an excellent foundation for new multidisciplinary initiatives and for the development of catalysis-based technologies. The university has developed world-class expertise in catalysis research and handling of titanium oxides and nanofibres, catalytic handling and use of VOC compounds, exhaust gas analysis, diesel oxidation catalysts, CNT catalysts and hydrogen production, and environmental catalysis. The results of catalysis research are widely applicable in various fields of industry, such as biorefineries, the mineral extraction industry, the chemical industry, the metallurgical industry, and the cleantech sector.

Lignocellulose-based biomaterials for industrial renewal

The major theme of biomaterials is sustainable industrial use of northern renewable natural resources, especially forest-based biomass. Research at the University of Oulu focuses in particular on the chemical and biochemical processing of lignocellulose to produce new green chemicals and materials, the development of concepts of biorefining, and the production of biocomposites and nanocellulose. The research also emphasises new sustainable applications, including the purification and treatment of water and the development of technical materials. The University of Oulu is a world leader in cellulose-based materials for water treatment, cellulose composites, functionalised nanocellulose, and biorefining technologies for non-wood lignocellulose.

Material spectroscopy and imaging for sustainability

The University of Oulu is the leader in Finland in the use and development of key methods in materials research. The methods include the ultra-fast multidimensional Laplace NMR technology for analysis of the properties of materials in macromolecular systems, NMR remote sensing technology for imaging reactions, spectroscopy and imaging based on synchrotron radiation for the structural analysis of soft materials, and the theory and calculation of NMR and photon spectroscopies. The University of Oulu has Finland’s only NMR method group in materials science, and has the leading researchers who focus on the use of synchrotron radiation and on MRI and NMR characterisation of human tissue. Knowledge of these and other methods creates new scientific information, innovations and applications that can be commercialised for the needs of industry.

Sustainable use of primary and secondary geological resources

Industry produces millions of tons of inorganic waste and by-products each year. Research at the University of Oulu is developing solutions for the use of these streams of waste in the manufacture of new highly valuable materials. The most important targets for materials research are inorganic binding agents, especially geopolymers that can replace cement in construction materials. Other targets of application include high-temperature ceramic materials, different kinds of composites, and absorbents used in water purification. The University of Oulu‘s research into the field of mineral extraction is unique in Finland in that it covers all areas of research, from the search for geological resources to the refining and re-use of minerals, and also increasingly into related economic research. The key areas of research expertise at the University of Oulu are in fundamental research into geochemistry, sedimentology and geophysics, mineral refining technology, protection of the environment in mining areas, geomaterials, and inorganic analytical chemistry.

Sustainable resource-efficient economy

At the University of Oulu the economic valuation of natural resources and the environment is combined with knowledge and skills in materials- and bio-based economy, forming a unique whole with a strong potential for international openings. One of the key goals of the main theme is to develop method-based readiness for the evaluation of sustainable development. Targets of analysis and modelling can include all of the main themes of the area of focus: material spectroscopy, strong grades of steel, the mineral extraction industry, biomaterials, and catalysis research as well as the environmental impact of the bioeconomy. Targets of research also include materials related to energy supply, and the aim is to develop new technical and economic solutions for the most extensive possible use of solar and wind energy. The research is holistic, supporting energy transition in the North, and focuses on smart and sustainable energy systems, including the impact of balancing renewable energy sources on the regulation of flowing water and the environment. Research also addresses the nexus of water, energy and bioeconomy, assessing the inextricable linkages between these sectors.