Huge research investment into new forestry materials

The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has decided to provide up to SEK 400 million for WWSC 2.0, the Wallenberg Wood Science Center, between now and 2028. The Royal Institute of Technology, Chalmers University of Technology, Linköping University and the forestry industry are participating in the centre. 

Magnus Berggren, Professor Linköping University, Lisbeth Olsson, Professor Chalmers and Lars Berglund, Professor KTH and director of WWSC.Magnus Berggren, Professor Linköping University, Lisbeth Olsson, Professor Chalmers and Lars Berglund, Professor KTH and director of WWSC. Photo credit: Johan Bodell/ChalmersThe total investment for research into new materials from Swedish forestry raw materials is currently just over SEK 1 billion. The new investment of SEK 400 million will be used for fundamental research that can provide a basis for developing a new generation of innovative materials from trees. WWSC 2.0 will focus on nanotechnology and specially designed materials from wood, cellulose, lignin and hemicellulose.

The Swedish forestry industry will contribute approximately SEK 100 million to the centre. The universities that are to benefit from the investment – the Royal Institute of Technology, Chalmers University of Technology and LiU – are also making contributions, in the form of salaries for doctoral students and research time, amounting to approximately SEK 22 million a year.

New beamline ForMAX

In addition to this investment, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation earlier in the autumn devoted SEK 100 million to the MAX IV synchrotron in Lund, for the construction of a beamline for ForMAX. The industry will contribute the same amount for maintenance for ten years. The beamline will be devoted to research into new materials from wood, and will come online in 2022.

“WWSC 2.0 will provide a major drive forwards in research and development in many of the excellent properties that cellulose, lignin and hemicellulose offer. By combining these with various smart materials, we can develop new high-performance and unique products in such fields as the development of green electronics, large-scale systems for the storage and conversion of energy, new medical treatments, and paper with an online connection to the internet,” says Magnus Berggren, professor of organic electronics at LiU.

It is planned that the investment at WWSC 2.0 will contribute to the financing of at least 40 doctoral students and 12 tenure-track researchers at the three universities. These universities are also involved in the Vinnova-funded Treesearch project, together with forestry companies BillerudKorsnäs, Holmen, Stora Enso, Södra and SCA. Treesearch will be a centre for applied research carried out in association with WWSC 2.0.

WWSC

Since 2008, WWSC has been involved in a collaboration between the Royal Institute of Technology and Chalmers University of Technology.

“The grants from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation have revolutionised Swedish research into materials from forestry. Our shining example, nanocellulose, is not only a major scientific success: the research has also led to large-scale industrial application,” says Lars Berglund, professor at the Royal Institute of Technology and director of WWSC. He is now to become director also of WWSC 2.0.

Magnus Wikström, technical manager at BillerusKorsnäs, welcomes the investment.

“The forestry industry has seen how WWSC generates new knowledge and new expertise. We have united, not only to support WWSC 2.0 but also in order to ensure that the establishment phase for Treesearch is successful and rapid. Here, it is WWSC 2.0 that provides a core around which we can create an environment where we can actively and efficiently take on the new knowledge and expertise,” he remarks.

The researchers at the Laboratory of Organic Electronics at LiU, Campus Norrköping, are also participating in the Vinnova-funded competence centre: “Digital Cellulose Center”. The partners in this case are RISE Acreo, RISE Bioeconomy, LiU, the Royal Institute of Technology, and 10 companies.

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