Materials Chemistry of Cellulose
1. Plant cell wall polymers in 2D
Focus is on building morphologically distinct 2-dimensional structures from well-defined cell wall components, such as cellulose nanocrystals or amorphous polysaccharides. The structures can be positioned on a flat, smooth surface to provide means for observing fundamental interactions between plant cell components when confined in 2D space. The results can also be applied to utilizing interfacial phenomena in more realistic materials like plant-based fibres where, for example, adsorbing elements are used to perform certain tasks on the fibre surface.
2. Cellulose-inorganic hybrids: new family of thin films for energy materials
This effort centres around building thin films from cellulose-based and inorganic materials. Electrical and thermal conductivity as well as optical properties of the films are under particular scrutiny and the application targets are therefore set in energy materials, such as thermoelectric devices. Our group’s wide-ranging knowledge on manufacturing various kinds of cellulose and cellulose derivative films are utilized in tuning the desired film properties. This is a consortium with VTT High Performance Fibre Products and an integral collaboration with Inorganic Chemistry group at Aalto.
3. Towards realistic, green, and low-cost production of cellulose nanocrystals
This project aims <strong>at overcoming or circumventing the bottlenecks in cellulose nanocrystal production. Instead of the conventional liquid acid / solid fibre system, a gas/solid system is applied in a custom-built reactor. Various ways of dispersing the nanocrystals from a hydrolyzed fibre matrix are at the centre of this effort. The concept report on the industrial feasibility of the gaseous HCl hydrolysis method can be found here.
Meet the team:
Professor Eero Kontturi, Head of the research team
Materials Chemistry of Cellulose
Department of Biotechnology and Chemical Technology
Aalto University, Espoo, Finland
Research group members:
Group members' biographies: PostDocs
I have an extensive background in cellulose chemistry. It ranges from pulping and bleaching to designing the production processes of novel nanocellulose products. I studied the production of nanocellulose with bromide-free TEMPO-mediated oxidation (D.Sc. (Tech) 2017) under supervision of Prof. Tapani Vuorinen (a collaboration of Aalto University and UPM). In 2015-2017 I worked on a scale-up project of the production of parenchymal nanocellulose at the start-up company Betulium. In 2017 I joined the Materials Chemistry of Cellulose group of Prof. Eero Kontturi as a postdoctoral researcher. Today I design production processes of CNCs which are based on the hydrolysis of cellulose with pressurized HCl gas.
Dr. Timo Pääkkönen is the Subgroup leader for Hydrolysis.
Panagiotis Spiliopoulos, Karl Mihhels, Yingfeng Wang, Topias Kilpinen
I have a strong background in chemically modifying and characterizing biopolymers and I am very much interested in structure-property-relationships resulting from tailored modifications of these fascinating materials. My PhD thesis (completed in 2017 at the Institute of Plant and Wood Chemistry, Technische Universität Dresden, Germany) was carried out in collaboration with BASF SE focusing on the synthesis of lignocellulose-based hydrogels for soil applications. I joined Aalto in November 2017 as a shared postdoctoral researcher (together with the group of Prof. M. Kostiainen). My current work lies at the interface between nanocellulose modification, organic synthesis, and polymer sciences, using cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) or nanofibers (CNF) as modification templates.
Dr. Katja Heise is the Subgroup leader for Modification.
Dr. Laleh Solhi, Dr. Valentina Guccini, Marcel Kröger
I received my Ph.D. (2017) degrees in Polymer Chemistry and Bioengineering from the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. I joined Aalto University in August 2018 and I work as a postdoctoral researcher in Prof. E. Kontturi´s group. Currently, my research interests include surface physical and molecular simulations.
Dr. Zhuojun Meng is the Subgroup leader for Surface interaction.
Dr. Wenyang Xu, Dr. Nesibe Dogan, Dr Anna Trubetskaya, Dr. Teemu Suutari, Han Tao
I received my M.Sc. (2015) and Ph.D. (2019) degrees in Chemical Engineering from Åbo Akademi University, Finland. I have background in fractionation, chemical modification, characterization, and utilization of wood-derived (bio-) polymers. My PhD thesis was focusing on the utilization of wood-derived biopolymers with different 3D printing techniques for biomedical applications. I joined the group of Materials Chemistry of Cellulose in January of 2019 as a shared postdoctoral researcher (together with Associate Professor Torbjörn Pettersson, KTH). My current research is based on one of the Tandem forest value projects i.e. ‘Strongly adsorbed polymer layers for modification of cellulose surfaces towards new functional materials (STRONGAD)’.
I received my PhD from Stockholm University in September 2019 with the thesis titled “Nanocellulose: energy applications and self-assembly”, under the supervision of German Salazar-Alvarez at the Department of Material and Environmental Chemistry. I began to work at Aalto University as a Postdoctoral researcher in November 2019, joining the group of Eero Kontturi at the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems. My main interests include nanocellulose (exp. cellulose nanofibers and nanocrystals) based materials for energy applications, such as lithium ion batteries and fuel cell, and studying their morphology and self-assembly in membranes, suspension or inorganic hybrids. My main investigation tools include small angle X-ray and neutron scattering (SAXS and SANS). More recently, I focused my research on the engineering of the next generation of carbon-capturing device based on nanocellulose bio-hybrids, focusing also on their interaction with liquid and vapor water.
I have completed my BSc degree in Chemistry from Isfahan University (2004) in Iran and my MSc (2007) and PhD (2012) studies in Polymer Sciences and Polymer Engineering at Iran Polymer and Petrochemical Institute and University of Innsbruck in Austria. I spent my first post-doctoral research fellowship in an enzymology lab focusing on carbohydrate active enzymes in the University of British Columbia in Canada. My background is very diverse; spanning a wide range from chemical and biochemical synthesis and modification to chemical, physical and mechanical characterization of nanomaterials and biomaterials. I have successfully designed and developed materials (many of which derived from natural polymers) with applications in dentistry, drug delivery systems, cosmetics, diagnostics, medical devices, and biosensors. My primary approach involves using green (bio)chemistry to develop materials with minimal environmental impact. In my current position I am working on physical and chemical surface modification of nanocellulose for final application in dental materials. I am interested in the chemical and physical design and properties of microscopic nanocellulose-resin-tooth interfaces and their impact on macroscopic properties.
I have completed my PhD degree with full scholarship about synthesis of nano porous polymers for CO2 capture and water treatment from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in 2019. During my studies, I gained experience for CO2 capture from flue gas mixtures and precious metal capture from wastewater using porous polymers, synthesis and characterizations using BET, NMR, TGA, SEM and XRD. I designed bead-shape polymers with stability and capture ability, which aimed for an industrial scale solution for scale-up processes. During my first postdoctoral research in CNRS, I worked in H2020 project in Paris where I dealt with acid degradation in valuable artefacts, by synthesizing nanocellulose-MOF composite thin films. My research duties were ranging from synthesis of cellulosic thin films with metal-organic frameworks, building and optimization of adsorption chamber to operate ISO 18916 tests on the artefacts as well. My current position in Aalto University, Finland as a postdoctoral researcher I am involved with synthesis and characterization of nanocellulose gels and cyanobacterial growth for photosynthetic cell factories with FET Open H2020 project.
I received my PhD in Pharmacy from the University of Helsinki in January 2021. During my studies, I obtained extensive experience on real-time label-free cell-based assays. In February 2021 I joined Prof. Eero Kontturi’s research group as a postdoctoral researcher to be part of the surface interaction team and the Horizon 2020 project, FuturoLEAF. The aim of this project is to develop solid-state photosynthetic cell factories, and my current tasks include investigating the interactions of different solid-state matrix components (including cells) on nanocellulose thin films, using mainly surface sensitive real-time detection methods.
Group members' biographies: PhD students
I graduated from University of Patras as a Materials Scientist (B.Sc) working on graphene’s chemical exfoliation, while my master studies took place in Stockholm University with my thesis titled ‘On the pyrolysis of nanocellulose aerogels’. After joining Materials Chemistry of Cellulose group as a Doctoral Candidate back in 2016, my research interests involve Cellulose-Inorganic hybrids preparation and self-assemblies of cellulosic nanoparticles. I am also working on plenty of microscopy techniques, involving AFM and SEM.
I am currently working on the topic of algal nanocellulose. I am both investigating more efficient ways to recover nanocellulose from algal biomass, and the peculiar properties of the cellulose itself. I am also interested in the sustainability aspect of the use of algae as a biobased raw material, and consider this topic important in everything I do.
I finished my second master degree in Aalto University in one year (2017-2018) with the major of Biomass Refining. Meanwhile, I worked as a research assistant in Biorefineries group and also did my master thesis there with concentration on simultaneous recycling of cellulose fibers and dyes from dyed cotton waste. I joined Materials Chemistry of Cellulose group after I got my master degree and my current research field is modify hydrolyzed celluloses by using of hydrolysis reactor in HCl gas.
I am an Aalto/VTT doctoral student with several years of experience on bio-based materials in different applications. The research topic related to my PhD is nanocellulose and its behaviour at different interfaces.
I am an Aalto/VTT doctoral student with a background in biochemistry and bioproduct technology. My M.Sc thesis (2016) was concerned with the production and characteristics of cellulose nanofibrils, and I have expertise in the preparation of hydrogels, films, cryogels, and porous aerogel structures from nanocellulosic materials. My current research focuses on functional nanocellulosic structures and their interactions with other materials ranging from inorganic aerosol particles to living microalgae cells.
I graduated as a Master of Science from Aalto University School of Chemical Engineering in autumn 2019. The title of my master’s thesis was “Regenerated cellulose-based films and laboratory scale equipment for their production”. Starting from September 2019 I have been working as a doctoral candidate in Materials Chemistry of Cellulose group. My research focuses on hydrolysis of biomass into sugars with HCl gas.
I received my Master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Hamburg in 2019, having focused on polymer syntheses and functionalization. For my Master thesis, I joined the research group of Prof. Morbidelli at ETH Zurich to work on the synthesis and functionalization of chromatographic resins for the high-throughput purification of antibodies by Protein A capture. Since joining the Materials Chemistry of Cellulose research group in November 2019, my focus is on the chemical modification of cellulose nanocrystals to integrate them into polymers.
In 2020, I obtained my master’s degree at Wuhan University of Technology, specifically focusing on the CNC-reinforced rubber nanocomposites. I joined the group Materials Chemistry of Cellulose in 2021 as a Ph.D. candidate. The overall target of my current research is to convert nanocellulose to electronic materials from a new perspective.
The Academy of Finland funding to Aalto University supports the development of nanocellulose-based scaffolds as well as the knowledge base and operating methods of the circular economy.
Professor of Materials Chemistry of Cellulose relaxes by reading scientific articles and makes no distinction between work and free time.
Professor Kontturi’s field of research is Materials Chemistry of Cellulose.
Prof. Orlando Rojas, Prof. Patrick Gane and Prof. Eero Kontturi of the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems, have been acknowledged for their significant work.