Tag Archive for: Bio4Energy Forest-based Feedstock

Training on Wood Biology, Biotechnology Fills Gap for Advanced Students of Biorefinery

Mini FEATURE. Northern Sweden, last week was home to advanced students affiliated with universities in Finland, Czech Republic, Belgium and Sweden—spending an intensive week at the city of Umeå—to learn about the frontline of science of wood biology and biotechnology.

Hosted by a leading wood biologists, Ewa Mellerowicz of the Umeå Plant Science Centre and Bio4Energy, this ad-hoc training is offered for the second time to equip advanced students interested in wood biology, tree breeding and biorefinery development with an edge.

“This course fills a gap and provides an overview of biological processes, explaining how they lead to developing different kinds of wood, and how they affect wood traits of economic importance”, the online course description says:

“Lectures and seminars are given by world experts in the field”. 

“This course fills a gap and provides an overview of biological processes, explaining how they lead to developing different kinds of wood, and how they affect wood traits of economic importance. Lectures and seminars are given by world experts in the field”.

When I stop by, the students are in full swing presenting posters to each other, a common feature both in advanced education and at scientific conferences.

“It is going great”, Hannele Tuominen, professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and platform leader in Bio4Energy, greets me.

“We have 20 students and here they learn to attack the issues we are discussing from every angle. We have a line up experts here to teach them [on location]. This is our strength”, Tuominen says.

“Most students have a molecular biology or wood chemistry background”, Mellerowicz fills in. She also has an affiliation with the Umeå branch of SLU. She agrees with a smile that it is great but exhausting;

“The students are here all week with a full programme in the daytime and then social activities in the evening”.

Most of them are much too busy liaising with each other to talk to me, but Bio4Energy student Anna Renström of Umeå University, is here just for the evening poster session.

“We have a new publication on wood formation in hybrid aspen that lets us know more about the lignin formation. Now we need to apply [the concept] to other species such as spruce and we need to conduct field trials to understand whether it really works”, she says expertly.

Renström is being supervised by Tuominen and others who are part of the teaching line up and I think to myself that it shows.

Contact

Ewa Mellerowicz, Umeå Plant Science Centre — Affiliation with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

For more information

Wood Biology and Biotechnology, 5 ECTS

Bio4Energy Forest-based Feedstocks

Umeå Plant Science Centre

A model of the Vertisà AB vertical gardening module. Photo by courtesy of Vertisà AB.

Inventions by Bio4Energy Researchers Highlighted by Royal Academy for Future Potential

Zeolite membranes for gas separation, vertical gardens and reuse of textiles to make composites. These are subjects of collaboration projects by Bio4Energy researchers who have made this year’s 100 List hosted by the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineer Sciences (KSLA).

To make the List, it takes a research project deemed to have “great potential to be useful”. This usefulness is thought of as potential for commercialisation of the product or concept studied, for development of either business or methods, or for providing thought leadership.

Another key criterion is for the project leader or researchers on the project to have expressed interest in collaborating with industry or related entities to further develop their invention.

Membrane technology for gas separation in use, tends to be bulky, energy intensive and cost a lot. Bio4Energy researchers Jonas Hedlund and Liang Yu are perfecting and developing ultra-thin zeolite membranes that take up less space and use less energy to perform the separation. These membranes would provide a large cost reduction if rolled out on a large scale, according to the scientists.

With Vertisà Ltd, Rosario García-Gil and team propose a module vertical garden that can be added onto the exterior of a house and mimics a natural ecosystem. Complete with a built-in watering system, which has been patented, it is not only designed to help with greenhouse gas capture in cities, but also serves to insulate and beautify the wall it is attached to. The module is both low-technology and low cost, according to the project leader.

A new process has been invented, which allows for reuse of scrapped textiles as a component in a new, strong type of composite material based on a mixture of discarded textiles and plastics. Kristiina Oksman and co-workers used a piece of process equipment called extruder, to mix the cut fabrics with plastics. The resulting composite is two fifths textiles and costs less than the standalone plastic polymer.

Contacts

Jonas Hedlund and Liang Yu, Bio4Energy Catalysis and Separation, affiliation with Luleå University of Technology

Rosario García-Gil, Bio4Energy Forest-based Feedstocks, affiliation with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Kristiina Oksman, Bio4Energy Biopolymers and Biochemical Conversion, affiliation with Luleå University of Technology

Plants Adapt their Lignin Using Chemical ‘Encoding’ Enzymes, New Report Suggests

Bio4Energy Associated Member Edouard Pesquet, previously with Umeå University, is part of a group of internationally leading scientists on fundamental research on the plant polymer lignin. Pesquet was part of the organisation team that started the international conference Lignin in 2014. Because of his experience with Bio4Energy at Umeå, Sweden and the support he gained during his time here—becoming a Gunnar Öquist Fellow—Pesquet has continued being part of, and publishing with, the Bio4Energy Research Environment. 

Stockholm, 1 December 2022

Plants “encode” specific chemistries of their lignin polymer substance to grow tall and be resilient. To do so, each plant cell uses different combinations of a specific type of enzyme, a new report suggests.

The results can be used both in agriculture and in forestry for selecting plants according to their chemistry, for them to resist altered conditions brought about by climate change, according to a press release from Stockholm University (SU).

The plant polymer lignin is an important carbon sink for the environment since it stores about one third of total carbon on the planet. It allows plants to hydrate and reach heights of up to 100 metres.

At the cell level, specific lignin chemistries adjust a plant’s mechanical strength to support growth and survival.

Bio4Energy scientists at SU recently demonstrated that lignin has a chemical “code” that is adapted at the cell level to fulfill different roles in plants. They way in which cells “encode” the lignin chemistry of a plant, however, remained unknown.

The researchers; led by Edouard Pesquet, associate professor in molecular plant physiology and senior author of the study; show that a type of enzymes called LACCASEs are used by each cell to adjust their lignin chemical “code”, in order to resist stresses such as drought or strong winds.

The study finally shows that lignin is spatially controlled at the nanometre level in each plant cell.

“The control of lignin chemistry at the cell level is ultimately the mechanism enabling plants to grow, hydrate and resist climate change stresses. These results finally demonstrate how lignin chemistry is controlled and open great possibilities to select plants upon their lignin ‘code’ to improve crops and trees’ resistance to water availability problems”, Pesquet said.

Text by Amanda Gonzalez Bengtsson, with editing by Anna Strom

Contact

Edouard Pesquet, Stockholm University — Bio4Energy Associated Member, Bio4Energy Forest-based Feedstocks and formerly with Umeå University and Umeå Plant Science Centre

Scientific article

Different combinations of laccase paralogs non-redundantly control the lignin amount and composition of specific cell types and cell wall layers in Arabidopsis, by Blaschek et al., is published in the journal The Plant Cell November 2022.

Plant scientist Rosario García-Gil received a "medal" for her contribution to science and collaborations. Photo by courtesy of Rosario Garcìa-Gil.

Bio4Energy Researcher Awarded Medal for ‘Exceptional Contribution’

Bio4Energy researcher Rosario García-Gil has been awarded a prize for “exemplary and exceptional contribution of lasting value” for her work as a plant scientist and a research leader at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) at Umeå, Sweden. It comes in the form of a gold medal.

“Right from the start Rosario García-Gil focused on research that can benefit the world around us. Much of it is about tree breeding for increased wood production. She also treats issues of ecology and sustainability. She has built a large number of collaborations to reach her goals”, according to a press release from the SLU.

Surprised but seemingly delighted, assistant professor García-Gil replied to an e-mail invitation from Bio4Energy Communications.

“This is… totally unexpected”, she wrote, “but you know, working with excellent people brings the best of you”.

Biologist García-Gil trained at the University of Valencia in Spain and served as a researcher at the University of Uleåborg, Finland; before taking up her role at SLU and Umeå Plant Science Centre in 2005.

Among research efforts with Bio4Energy, the co-coordination of two large projects stands out. Whereas one is a multinational project on the integration of UN Sustainable Development Goals in Forest Management, the other aims to integrate the concept of remote sensing in studies that draw on forest genetics. The aim of the latter is to adapt forest management practises to altered conditions brought about by a changing climate.

In terms of collaboration with other members of the Bio4Energy research environment, García-Gil and her team are part of projects on the effect of drought on spruce wood chemistry and feedstock use, as well as detecting and quantifying resin canals in spruce.

Polymer Lignin May Be Modified for Drought Resistance in Plants

Bio4Energy Associated Member Edouard Pesquet, previously with Umeå University, is part of a group of internationally leading scientists on fundamental research on the plant polymer lignin. Pesquet was part of the organisation team that started the international conference Lignin in 2014. Because of his experience with Bio4Energy at Umeå, Sweden and the support he gained during his time here—becoming a Gunnar Öquist Fellow—Pesquet has continued being part of, and publishing with, the Bio4Energy Research Environment. 

Stockholm, 22 September 2022
A new study shows that we can create and select plants that can better recover from drought without affecting the size of the plant or seed yield, by genetically modifying their lignin chemistry. These results could be used in both agriculture and forestry to tackle future climatic challenges.

Lignin, the second most abundant biopolymer on Earth, represents about 30 percent of the total carbon on the planet. It allows plants to conduct water and stand up right; without lignin, plants cannot grow nor survive.

For long, scientists did not consider that lignin had a “code” like in DNA or proteins. Researchers led by Stockholm University, Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences (DEEP), in collaboration with Stockholm University Department of Material Sciences (MMK) and Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT); have now challenged this old paradigm by demonstrating the existence of a lignin chemical “code”.

They showed that each cell uses this code to adjust their lignin to function at its optimum and resist stresses. These results are published in the high-ranking scientific journal The Plant Cell and could be used in both agriculture and forestry to tackle future climatic challenges.

“It takes only one simple chemical change, just one hydrogen atom apart from alcohol to aldehyde to make plants highly resilient to drought in conditions where alcohol-rich plants would all die”, explained Edouard Pesquet, associated professor in molecular plant physiology and senior author of the study.

Interestingly, professor Shinya Kajita from TUAT showed that such large increases of lignin aldehydes can occur naturally in the wild. In the Japanese silk industry for example, mulberry with high lignin aldehyde levels have long been used and loved by silk caterpillars.

“These results [not only] revise our understanding of lignin and plant water conduction, but also open great possibilities to use the lignin ‘code’ to improve crops and trees to face water availability problems. The modification of lignin chemistry at the single cell level, is ultimately the mechanism enabling plants to grow, hydrate and resist climate change stresses”, Pesquet said.

Text by Amanda Gonzalez Bengtsson, with editing by Anna Strom

Contacts
Edouard Pesquet, Stockholm University — Bio4Energy Associated Member, formerly with Bio4Energy at Umeå University and Umeå Plant Science Centre
Aji Mathew, Stockholm University — Formerly with Bio4Energy at Luleå University of Technology

Scientific articles
Plant biomechanics and resilience to environmental changes are controlled by specific lignin chemistries in each vascular cell type and morphotype, by Ménard, Blaschek et al. is published in the journal The Plant Cell September 2022.

Bio4Enery Going Strong: New Scientists, Collaborations

Bio4Energy scientists and advanced students met at Umeå, Sweden, ready to form new research collaborations. 

Bio4Energy’s most recent platform leaderNils Skoglund, opened up for collaboration with Environment and Nutrient Recycling; and with his team presenting new lines of research.

New Bio4Energy researchers, bringing the membership count to 225, took the stage; pitching and matching.

The research environment is stronger than ever, taking its collaborations, as well as own education and training to new levels.

Moreover, expect news in terms of Bio4Energy’s outreach and online presence to follow in the third or fourth quarter of this year.