Researcher: Pasi Korkalo, Research Scientist. M.Sc. (Chemistry), Natural Resources Institute Finland

Supervisor: Tuula Jyske, Senior Scientist, D.Sc., (Agr & For), Docent, Natural Resources Institute Finland

Researcher Pasi Korkalo


Background of the project

Novel bioeconomy approaches call for more and faster production of lignocellulosic biomass and its better-tailored holistic use for higher added value. Hybrid aspen (Populus tremula L. x P. tremuloides Michx.) is one of the fastest growing tree species in Finland. The high yield capacity and chemical properties of aspen indicate its promising potential for biochemicals and green energy.

Aims of the project

We study chemical properties of hybrid aspen clones for production of added-value chemicals. We concentrate on aspen bark as under-utilized raw material. By using extraction and thermochemical distillation, chemical substances are separated for case-studies (Figure).

Figure: Comprehensive utilization of hybrid aspen wood and bark.

How the project will promote sustainable use of Finnish natural resources

To remain competitive in future bio-economy, the Finnish forest sector must constantly come up with novel products. Hybrid aspen has potential to become a more important raw material in Finland, especially as the climate change forces a broadening of the selection of commercially utilized tree species. Our project promotes the comprehensive utilization of aspen biomass. Aspen bark may provide an alternative source for fossil-based chemicals.

Expected results and deliverables

The project provides forest industries and future bio-refineries with a knowledge base on hybrid aspen biomass, especially the under-utilized bark, and its potential for added-value applications or template chemicals including:

1) catalytic conversion of wood-derived substances into valuable bulk chemicals

2) application of suberin acids in coatings

3) use of acidic distillates for plant protection.