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Our impact

FinnCERES aims to have a worldwide footprint.

We will change the world by uncovering the most fundamental questions about lignocellulose disassembly and reassembly, and by creating new bio-based materials that are expected to address the main challenges of our century, including resource sufficiency and climate change. In turn, this can improve our quality of life in relation to better use of resources and the creation of ecological and novel products that display high performance at competitive costs.

What is FinnCERES?

FinnCERES is a globally significant competence centre, jointly formed by Aalto University and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd in the area of materials bioeconomy.

The centre spins from proven scientific and technological records and will have a strong societal impact. FinnCERES was awarded Flagship funding from the Academy of Finland in May 2018.

The Flagship will operate in close collaboration with the industry and other stakeholders to create economic and societal impacts. We are committed to transforming scientific and technological discoveries into industrial innovations.

 

Our answer to global challenges

FinnCERES will develop novel approaches for biomass processing, as well as material solutions and partner with industry sectors based on long-term, cutting-edge R&D work.

Our efforts will enable materials for next-generation products, which are economic and feasible, renewable and sustainable.

FinnCERES addresses the following scientific questions:

  1. Is it possible to turn the normally challenging biomaterial-water interaction into an advantageous feature in biomaterial development?
  2. How can we realise efficient and reproducible production of new lignocellulose building blocks for emerging applications in the bioeconomy?
  3. How can evolutionary honed biomaterial architectures be used to meet the needs of these novel applications?

We believe that through the knowledge created in FinnCERES, we can:

  1. Provide a solid foundation for bio-based innovations
  2. Scale-up process and product concepts based on biomaterials to be transferred for commercialisation
  3. Develop new start-ups based on IPR created in the project
  4. Support decision making by providing science-based evidence on the quality, feasibility, sustainability and safety of the novel bio-based materials and the feasibility of innovative production processes
  5. Create novel education and innovation tracks and convey the benefits of the novel bioeconomy materials to the general public

Research

FinnCERES’s research addresses on-going global megatrends including resource sufficiency, climate change and quality of life.

These challenges are turned into opportunities and with the help of scientific discoveries they are further transformed into solutions such as:

  • The use of new biomaterials to replace or capture plastics
  • Tackle the textile fibre gap
  • Development of light-weight materials for various end-uses
  • Evaluation of solutions for partly bio-based electronics and much more

Key research areas

Future Biorefineries

Lignocellulose has a vast untapped potential in functional fractions with high-value commercial applications. These fractions cannot be extracted with the current thermochemical pulping methods, therefore, new methods are being developed to complement traditional kraft pulping.

Enzymes, for example, offer a highly selective method for extracting new fractions, and the use of energy and chemicals are significantly lower than in traditional pulping. Recent developments in biotechnology enable access to a number of potentially interesting enzymes and several new types of reactions. This fundamental research is expected to open several new avenues for commercial production of high value added materials.

Future biorefineries use these novel processes to increase the yield of these fractions as well as to create entirely new ones. Some of the innovative new technologies can be used as drop-in solutions, replacing toxic chemicals in kraft pulping and lengthening the life cycle of old mills. Other novel technologies will complement current production and create new, profitable products from lignocellulose.

Clean Air and Water

Water interactions are at the heart of engineering of bio-based materials. The sensitivity of cellulose is often seen as detrimental, but this problem can be turned into an opportunity by utilizing the moisture-responsiveness in development of novel materials. The inherent interactions of cellulose fibers can be exploited e.g. in purification of water and air.

Currently, some of our most promising approaches include nanocellulose-based capturing of microplastics, hormones, and pharmaceutical residues from wastewater.

Future Plastics

The search is on for lightweight, high-strength, multifunctional materials and high-performance biocomposites that could provide sustainable alternatives to plastics. Nearly 300 million tonnes of plastics are produced annually, of which millions of tonnes end up in the environment, harming marine life and other ecosystems. The amount of microplastics in the oceans has exploded. It has been estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans, with significant ecological repercussions. Additional challenges include CO2 emissions originating from plastics production and incineration.

Lignocellulose offers one sustainable alternative to plastics, with similar or often better properties. In efforts to reduce the use of plastic, FinnCERES is currently working on enabling bio-based, biodegradable and low-cost production of materials with desirable mechanical and functional properties.

Right now, some of our projects in this field include creating high-performance materials combining nanoscale bio-based building blocks, developing complex cellulosic structures for consumer applications, and formulating bio-based 3D printing materials.

Electronics and Energy Storage

The inherent properties of lignocellulosic building blocks can provide groundbreaking possibilities in completely new areas. Lignocellulose-based materials offer solutions for electronic applications related to harvesting, converting and storing energy. For example, biochars could be used to replace rare metals in solar cells.

In addition, FinnCERES research activities focus on investigating band structures and optical properties of nanocellulose. Our research will turn nanocellulose into the next revolutionary nanomaterial, the next “graphene”.

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