Alternatives for replacing fossil raw materials with renewable ones for the
production of chemicals, materials and energy are being sought worldwide. One
of these alternatives is plant biomass. In her doctoral dissertation, Anne
Kallioinen, MSc (Tech.), Research Scientist at VTT Technical Research Centre
of Finland, developed methods for a more efficient use of the side streams of
agriculture and forestry in the manufacture of sugars and sugar-based
Kallioinen's doctoral dissertation involved development of a new pretreatment
method for lignocellulose, suitable for the processing of both wood and straw
material. Raw material flexibility is important since biorefineries depend on
a sufficient supply of raw material.
The material obtained through this method can be broken down into sugars even
if the enzyme levels are very low – potentially 60 per cent lower than in
traditional pretreatment methods. Alternatively, it is possible to shorten the
time used for enzymatic treatment. The tailored enzyme cocktails developed in
this research will also increase the efficiency of enzymatic treatment and
enable a reduction in enzyme levels. Lower enzyme levels will in turn save
operating costs in biorefineries.
This study explored two raw materials that are possible in Nordic conditions:
reed canary grass and barley straw. These are well suited as raw material
because of their high carbohydrate levels. Kallioinen's study shows that the
time of harvest is nevertheless significant: spring-harvested reed canary
grass is better suited for processing than that harvested in autumn.
Lignocellulose derived from the side streams of agriculture and forestry, such
as straw and wood, may constitute a significant future raw material for
biofuels, biochemicals and plastic-like products, among others. The use of
enzymes to convert lignocellulose into sugars, and for further conversion, for
example into ethanol, requires that the strong structure of lignocellulose is
first broken down through pretreatment. Such technology is already in use, but
industry needs new raw materials and more efficient pretreatment methods. The
research results obtained in Anne Kallioinen's dissertation can be used to
develop more efficient biorefineries.
Anne Kallioinen, MSc (Tech), Research Scientist at VTT, defended her doctoral
dissertation at the Aalto University School of Science on 28 May 2014 at 12
The thesis is available at web.