LUT has started a bioenergy research project with Brazilian universities

Lappeenranta University of Technology has started a joint research project on biofuels with the University of Jyväskylä and two universities in Brazil. LUT's role in the project is to conduct gasification and burn tests on the fuels as well as model burning systems.  In addition to Finnish biomass, other types of biomass are also being studied, including biomass from eucalyptus trees and coconut shells as well as biomass from sugar cane and bagasse received from ethanol and sugar factories.

In LUT's project, many different kinds of biomass treatment processes, such as pyrolysis, torrefaction and gasification, are being studied. In pyrolysis, the biofuel is decomposed by heating it in oxygen-free conditions. The biomass does not burn, but it gasifies into producer gas, most of which is condensed into fuel oil. Torrefaction, or biochar production, is the processing of the biomass into pellets in a temperature of 250–270 °C in oxygen-free conditions. In gasification, the biomass is decomposed into wood gas.

The tests and modelling are being conducted in LUT Energy's laboratory in a pipe furnace that fits on a laboratory table. Small amounts of biomass brought from Brazil are burned in the furnace. The tests are used to determine how different types of biomass differ in different burning processes and how the process needs to be changed for different biofuels in order to reach the desired end result.

LUT is conducting the project's studies in co-operation with the University of Jyväskylä. LUT's part in the study is led by professor Esa Vakkilainen, and Jyväskylä's share is led by professor Jukka Konttinen and professor Raimo Alén. Two Brazilian universities, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, FMG, and University Federal of Viçosa, UFV, are also involved in the project.

Professor Vakkilainen says that the project will enhance co-operation between the universities. Vakkilainen visited the Brazilian co-operation universities last summer. Because of this visit, four students from UFMG will be coming to LUT for their Master's studies.

"There is willingness in Brazil to send young students abroad in order to develop their own country, and we are pleased to receive them at LUT. Finland is one of the leading countries in the burning and gasification of biomass. The leading suppliers in the field are also situated in Finland. Brazil has biomass, but its refinement has typically been for the production of alcohol. We offer Brazil industrial expertise to aid their aims of widening their product range and market area. A good study environment and biomass-centred studies are an advantage for them", says Vakkilainen.   

LUT's research project Improving process understanding and widening of feedstock database for thermal biomass conversion began on 01/01/2013 and will continue until 31/08/2016. The Finnish parties of the project are funded by the Academy of Finland, and the Brazilian parties are funded by the Brazilian national research funding organisation CNPq.

The project is a part of the Academy of Finland's Sustainable Energy research programme, which consists of eight Finnish-Brazilian joint projects. 

Further information:

Professor Esa Vakkilainen, Lappeenranta University of Technology, tel. +358 40 357 8684, esa.vakkilainen@lut.fi