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BioMim - Advancing biomass technology

Utilization of woody (lignocellulosic) biomass has emerged as a top priority to meet growing energy demands, address climate change, and support forest economies. Research and technology development are critically needed to find cost-effective and sustainable solutions for the conversion of biomass. Extensive exploitation of lignocellulosic biomass as a feedstock for a variety of products is the key to develop a viable bio-economy. However, the natural resistance of lignocellulosic biomass to chemical and biological deconstruction is a challenge that biorefineries have to overcome.
Start/end january 2015/december 2018
Project Leader NIBIO Gry Alfredsen
Project number 336004
Division Division for Forest and Forest Resources
Research topics Wood Technology
Partners Norwegian University of Life Sciences, University of Oslo, Paper and Fibre Research Institute, Borregaard, Kebony, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), University of Tennessee, SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, University of Copenhagen, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology.
Total budget 27,3 mill NOK
Budget for NIBIO current year 2 mill NOK
Finance The Research Council of Norway

Summary

We want to learn from nature how to do more with Scandinavian wood resources. The two primary wood species in Norway are Norway spruce (47%) and Scots pine (33%). Brown rot fungi occur primarily on conifer wood and in the boreal forest. Early in the brown rot decay process, extensive depolymerization of the wood cell wall occurs, causing the wood to rapidly lose strength in comparison to the rate of wood metabolism. This causes challenges for wood in service but creates possibilities for developing technologies for biorefining.

Enzymes, which are a key tool for biomass depolymerization, cannot penetrate the intact wood cell walls. Brown-rot fungi possess unique mechanisms employing the use of small metabolites such as iron ions to selectively remove biomass components, thus creating much improved access to their enzymes. This mechanism can be exploited in biorefining, while on the other hand, it needs to be controlled to prevent fungal damage to wood in service.

Exploitation of this kind of chemistry in (industrial) biomass conversion has so far been of limited success, due to a lack of understanding of the reaction process and of the interplay between various enzyme types, metabolites and reaction conditions. Through the BioMim project, we will acquire new insights into how brown rot fungi degrade wood and these will be used to improve biorefining processes as well as wood protection.

Contact

Work Packages

Extensive exploitation of lignocellulosic biomass as a feedstock for a variety of products is the key to develop a viable bio-economy. However, the natural resistance of lignocellulosic biomass to chemical and biological deconstruction is a challenge that biorefineries have to overcome.

In BioMim we have assembled an internationally-leading consortium of experts who together cover all the competences needed to accomplish the objectives of this project. The active involvement of Borregaard and Kebony will help ensure that the commercial objectives within BioMim are fulfilled.

Work package 1: Raw materials - Preprocessing and characterization

Creating well-characterized samples of pretreated softwood biomass and fractions thereof, and continuous analytical work on process fractions, with focus on the nanostructure of both cellulose and lignin as they undergo pretreatment.

Contact: Dr. Lars Johansson, PFI, lars.johansson@pfi.no

 

Work package 2: Mimicking the CMF system

It is hypothesized that the CMF system holds the key to solving the recalcitrance bottleneck. Hence, different approaches based on knowledge from earlier published studies will be used to provide an in vitro biomimetic solution.

Contact: Dr. Gry Alfredsen, NIBIO, gry.alfredsen@nibio.no

 

Work package 3: The role of LPMOs (and other redox enzymes)

Creating a deeper understanding of the substrate specificities, kinetics, and overall efficiency of LPMOs, in-depth characterization of LPMOs from Postia placenta and Gloeophyllum trabeum, and assessment of the possible roles of other redox enzymes in biomass conversion.

Contact: Prof. Vincent Eijsink, NMBU, vincent.eijsink@nmbu.no

 

Work package 4: CMF-enzyme interactions

To study how CMF and enzymes systems may be combined to optimize biomass conversion and to identify factors steering the interplay between the two systems.

Contact: Prof. Vincent Eijsink, NMBU, vincent.eijsink@nmbu.no

 

Work package 5: Wood protection

The goal is to utilize knowledge from the WPs above to improve protection of modified wood. The WP will focus on the initial decay processes inherent in the protection mechanism provided by modified wood. Furfurylated pine will be used as model substrate and Postia placenta for decay trials.

Contact: Dr. Gry Alfredsen, NIBIO, gry.alfredsen@nibio.no

 

Work package 6: Proof-of-concept and LCA

Assess the economic and environmental feasibility of the proposed biomass conversion processes and perform proof-of-concept experiments for scale-up purpose(s).

Contact: Dr. Lars Johansson, PFI, lars.johansson@pfi.no

 

Work package 7: Project management and communication

The steering group is an important arena for the project coordination and ensure communication between the work packages.

All partners in the project participate in the communication activities and include:

  • Peer review papers
  • Scientific conferences
  • The use of social media and networks to create dialogue with target groups
  • The project will organise work shops and seminars

Contact: Dr. Gry Alfredsen, NIBIO, gry.alfredsen@nibio.no

Photos: Janka Dibdiakova / NIBIO