SEK 380 million to cutting edge wood research

The Wallenberg Foundation has awarded SEK 380 million to research at the Wallenberg Wood Science Center, WWSC. Around a quarter of the grant will go to Linköping University, which is conducting the programme together with KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Chalmers University of Technology. The objective is to become best in the world.

Mats Fahlman, professor at LiU andacting vice-director of the Wallenberg Wood Science Center. Thor Balkhed

Extended and increased

The WWSC was founded in 2009 to develop new sustainable materials from the Swedish forests, and has since then completed two stages. It has now been decided that a third stage will be carried out, confirming the earlier preliminary and conditional decision. The third stage has been granted greater resources than previously calculated. The research focus for WWSC 3.0 has also been defined more clearly and linked directly to the UN’s sustainable development goals.

The expansion of the programme means that six research leaders, 36 PhD students and 36 postdocs can be recruited, together with four visiting professors. Two of the six recruitment packages have been placed at LiU.

“The grant is an increase in financing, and a targeted investment in recruiting young, world-class researchers: a major part of the research grant is associated with these recruitment packages”, says Mats Fahlman, professor of surface physics at LiU, and acting vice-director of the research centre.

“WWSC is already challenging for a place in the global elite, and the intention with the new resources and recruitment of new personnel is that we can establish ourselves as Number 1.”

What will be LiU's most important contribution to the new research?

“If I could answer that, it would mean that we are not carrying out research, but product development... What I can say, however, is that our strength is materials design and its links to applications for sustainable development. I believe that this will be where we will have the greatest impact”, says Mats Fahlman.

Exciting resource

The new phase of the project at WWSC will run from 2023 to 2028, under the name “New Materials from Trees for a Sustainable Future”. The overall aims since the start have been to replace oil with wood in the manufacture of plastics, to create stronger materials with greater fire resistance, and to develop new functional materials.

The results of the research so far include transparent wood and paper that can be made magnetic, electrically conducting, and fire resistant. Other examples are biobased plastics, glue and porous materials.

“Wood is an extremely important and exciting resource for a sustainable future, since wood-based materials have a great potential to replace fossil-based materials. They can also be the basis for completely new materials with new properties”, says Eva Malmström Jonsson, director of WWSC, in a press release.

The research grant to WWSC is one part of a larger investment of over SEK 3 billion that the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation is making into materials science for a sustainable world. The majority of the research grant, SEK 2.7 billion, has been awarded to a new research programme, the Wallenberg Initiative Material Science for Sustainability, led by Magnus Berggren, professor of organic electronics at LiU.

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