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FinnCERES develops novel lignocellulose-based materials to address the main challenges of our century, including resource sufficiency and climate change.

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

Interactions and modelling

One of the main challenges of the utilisation of lignocellulosic components is their sensitivity to water. We want to unveil the still unresolved nature and effects of the interactions and utilise the moisture-responsiveness in materials engineering.

Is it possible to turn this challenge into an advantageous feature in biomaterial development? Can we achieve novel and feasible material families by exploiting cellulose-water interactions? How can we hybridise materials to achieve the required performance in given applications?

Gaining deeper knowledge on the nature of the interactions that exist between lignocellulosic systems and water is fundamentally important to facilitate the generation of materials based on sustainable resources.

Project examples:

  • Probe with water – exploiting water molecules to reveal structural details of lignocellulosic building blocks
  • Modelling of interacting surfaces of cellulose crystals
  • Orientation and rheology of cellulose suspensions in a capillary tube
  • Micro- and nano-plastics: A modern menace or an increasing threat?

Biomass fractionation and modification

One of the main challenges related to utilisation of lignocellulosic components is the recalcitrant structure of lignocellulose in plants and the drawbacks of current fractionation technologies that are energy-intensive, non-green, non-selective and do not preserve the “natural” structure of the main components.

We aim to discover novel solvents and multiphase systems capable of isolating or dissolving lignin and hemicellulose from lignocellulosic biomass and elucidate their mode of action. We aim to produce lignocellulose-based building blocks of uniform quality with respect to chemistry and morphology by uncovering the disassembly and reassembly mechanisms. Furthermore we will propose new methods for modification building blocks.

Project examples:

  • In situ modification of biomass components during fractionation based on molecular oxygen redox chemistry
  • Fundamentals of γ-valerolactone – Biorefinery of birch wood
  • Enzymatic modification of the lignocellulosic building blocks

Structured materials

In the structured materials theme, we want to study how to use lignocellulose as a sustainable alternative to plastics, with similar or better properties. In this context, lightweight, high-strength, multifunctional materials and high-performance biocomposites are globally among the top material foci.

Nearly 280 million tonnes of plastics are produced annually, most of which end up in the environment harming marine life and other ecosystems. 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.

In the structured materials theme, we want to study how to use lignocellulose as a sustainable alternative to plastics, with similar or better properties. In this context, lightweight, high-strength, multifunctional materials and high-performance biocomposites are globally among the top material foci. In efforts to reduce plastic utilisation, FinnCERES aims to find answers by enabling bio-based, biodegradable and low-cost production of materials with desirable mechanical and functional properties.

Project examples:

  • High-performance materials combining nanocellulose and nanolignin
  • Complex cellulosic structures for consumer applications
  • Fold and sustain – combining design, mathematics, and materials science
  • Rheology essentials of 3D-based printing materials

Advanced materials and products

The potential of the crystalline structure of cellulose has not been fully exploited. Our research will turn nanocellulose into the next revolutionary nanomaterial, the next “graphene”.

The inherent properties of lignocellulosic building blocks can provide ground-breaking possibilities in completely new areas in the future.

FinnCERES spins its research from the driving forces that are changing the future: How to increase the demand for more sustainable products and systems? How to integrate lignocelluloses in different scales and contexts, in textiles and electronics?

Project examples:

  • Biochars for energy harvesting and storage applications
  • Bands and optical properties of nanocellulose
  • Functionalised Biocelsol textiles

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