FinnCERES Flagship turns fundamentals to innovations

Material production faces grand challenges. For example, plastic trash is a very real problem with microplastics in oceans and lakes, from sediments of the lakes to Arctic ice. Also due to the scarcity of raw materials, materials must be recyclable.

It is obvious that the materials paradigm needs to change!

This push for change opens new possibilities for Finland. Finland has a vital forestry industry and a long history producing pulp, paper, and packaging materials. We also have lots of biomass: in fact, the plant biomass resources per capita in Finland are the highest in Europe. It is vital that we use our biomass resources in a sustainable way and produce added-value products for the needs of future society.

Everything currently made from crude oil can be produced from lignocellulose, the structural material of plants. Only the technologies are different.

Lignocellulose for future applications

The basic idea of FinnCERES – a research flagship funded by the Academy of Finland – is to develop technologies for lignocellulose processing and future applications. The target applications include packaging materials, textiles, composites, food ingredients, and future solutions for semiconductors, energy harvesting, and optoelectronics, for example.

Lignocellulose is composed of three main components: cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. The plant cell wall is a natural composite in which the components are tightly packed together, often linked with chemical bonds. It is a challenge to separate these components without destroying their structure and properties.

In FinnCERES, we develop separation technologies aimed at high-value fractions, valuable in further applications. A fundamental understanding of the chemical interactions in cellulose and lignocellulose is essential. Our research focuses on water interactions on cellulosic fibres, cellulose-cellulose interactions, fibre level interactions, and cellulose-hemicellulose and lignin interactions. Modelling at different levels is included as an essential part of the research. Our research will model the molecular levels as well as the manufacturing processes.

We will take knowledge from fundamental research to application development. Our close connection to the industry will guarantee that scientific and technological findings will be implemented in business and industry.

FinnCERES flagship for cutting-edge research and economic growth

FinnCERES is a joint effort of Aalto University and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. The overall aim is to establish an internationally recognized competence cluster in the area of materials bioeconomy. We are committed to developing a unique foundation for bioeconomy innovations, which are based on the close collaboration between Aalto University and VTT, the advanced bioeconomy infrastructure, and a continuous dialog with industrial partners.

The long-term funding makes it possible to do strategic and focused high-impact research. We are committed to transfer the scientific and technological discoveries to promote industrial innovations.

FinnCERES was among the two first flagships funded by the Academy of Finland in May 2018. This was a new funding instrument by the Academy aimed at flexible, high-impact competence clusters doing cutting-edge research, supporting economic growth, and having close connections with the business sector.

After a profound scientific and impact evaluation, FinnCERES was granted flagship status, and a total of €24 M for eight years.

Dean of University of Aalto University School of Chemical Engineering

Kristiina Kruus has been nominated Dean of University of Aalto University School of Chemical Engineering from 1st December, 2018.