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Aalto focuses on pulp research to boost a shift to a low carbon economy

A ground-breaking research programme together with universities, research organizations, and companies is established to reform the traditional pulping processes. As the target of the programme is industrial scale relevance, it requires a pool of scientists and the industry to work together internationally.
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Nanocellulose. Photo: Valeria Azovskaya, Aalto University

The Emission Free Pulping (EFP) research program intends to find ways to improve energy efficiency, enhance the efficiency of wood usage and conversion to products, achieve emission-free pulping (especially carbon dioxide emissions), and significantly reduce water usage in the processes. The target is also to minimize burning of biomass and to produce fibres suitable for high volume applications in coming decades.  The program's sought-after results are expected to have wide-ranging effects.

‘Biomass processing technologies are advanced, circular, and established. However, we are in a situation where we must keep being more and more mindful and up to date of the resources and certainly of the emissions. This program will be decisive for that,' explains Professor Tiina Nypelö,Principal Investigator of the project at Aalto.

Aalto University possesses outstanding resources and expertise for conducting research

Aalto’s EFP team consists of three professors in addition to researchers and is dedicated to driving the change of the current pulping processes towards an emission-free operation. Aalto’s researchers bring to the consortium expertise in wood chemistry, lignocellulose chemistry, pulping and sustainability. Aalto has exceptional facilities for biomass treatment as well as a wide selection of modern analytical tools for characterization.

Aalto has a long-standing reputation for expertise in investigating the structure of plant cell wall. This work has been led by Professor Tapani Vuorinen, whose work in wood chemistry and pulping are well recognized both in Finland and worldwide.  

Professor Tiina Nypelö leads the research in lignocellulose chemistry at the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems at Aalto. The ambition of Professor Nypelö is resource-efficient utilization of biomass in materials biorefinery. 

Aalto’s third team member, Assistant Professor Luana Dessbesell, has recently established a research group at Aalto focusing on sustainable bioproducts innovations. Her group is working on translating bioproducts research to commercialization, considering an interdisciplinary approach leveraging techno-economic, environmental and circularity indicators.

Aalto’s EFP team will later be complemented by new researchers to guarantee the education of future excellence in the field of pulping – both for the needs of industry and research organisations. The forest and pulping industry have historically been very important for the self-sufficiency and economy in Finland. This project supports that wood can be sustainably and economically utilized in Finland also in the future.

Emission Free Pulping – in a nutshell

  • A 5-year international research program.
  • Consortium coordination VTT, scientific lead RISE.
  • Business Finland granted the program with a 3-year funding of 5.1 million euros.
  • The total budget is expected to exceed 15 million euros.
  • Companies involved: ANDRITZ, Arauco, Metsä Group, Stora Enso, UPM, Valmet.
  • Universities and research institutions involved: VTT, RISE, Aalto University, Chalmers University of Technology, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, LUT University, Mid Sweden University, University of Helsinki, University of Oulu, Åbo Akademi University.

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