Projects / Programmes source: ARRS

Biotechnological processing of lignocellulosic materials

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
4.01.02  Biotechnical sciences  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Wood technology 

Code Science Field
T460  Technological sciences  Wood, pulp and paper technology 

Code Science Field
2.11  Engineering and Technology  Other engineering and technologies 
biotechnological processes of lignocellulosic surfaces functionalisation, lignin, phenolic monomers, laccases, EPR, spectroscopies
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (27)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publications
1.  32561  PhD Luka Ausec  Plant production  Researcher  2010 - 2013  62 
2.  32285  PhD Daniele Biglino  Physics  Researcher  2010 - 2012  29 
3.  25790  PhD Mojca Božič  Chemical engineering  Researcher  2010 - 2013  211 
4.  25518  PhD Miha Črnigoj  Pharmacy  Researcher  2010 - 2011  42 
5.  27655  PhD Sabina Dolenec  Geology    2010 - 2012  435 
6.  19106  PhD Miha Humar  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Researcher  2010 - 2013  1,210 
7.  25520  PhD Vesna Jerman  Pharmacy  Researcher  2013  38 
8.  21546  PhD Tilen Koklič  Physics  Researcher  2010 - 2013  132 
9.  15322  PhD Vanja Kokol  Materials science and technology  Researcher  2010 - 2013  507 
10.  28408  Helena Krajnc  Materials science and technology  Junior researcher  2010 - 2013  17 
11.  30633  Sandra Kure    Technician  2010  16 
12.  17794  Simona Leskovec    Technician  2010 - 2013  25 
13.  29435  PhD Špela Levičnik Hoefferle  Biotechnology  Researcher  2012  22 
14.  05993  PhD Ines Mandić-Mulec  Biotechnology  Researcher  2010 - 2013  590 
15.  33075  Alma Mehle    Technician  2011 - 2013  11 
16.  34175  PhD Levin Pal  Biotechnology  Researcher  2011 - 2012  80 
17.  03070  PhD Slavko Pečar  Pharmacy  Researcher  2010 - 2011  415 
18.  05248  PhD Franc Pohleven  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Principal Researcher  2010 - 2013  1,191 
19.  20964  Gregor Rep  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Researcher  2010  62 
20.  28079  PhD Polonca Ropret  Chemistry  Researcher  2010 - 2013  266 
21.  18273  PhD Janez Štrancar  Physics  Researcher  2010 - 2013  359 
22.  19719  PhD Črtomir Tavzes  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Researcher  2010 - 2013  184 
23.  31988  PhD Ajda Ulčnik  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Junior researcher  2010 - 2013  14 
24.  32057  PhD Iztok Urbančič  Physics  Junior researcher  2010 - 2013  115 
25.  31256  Maja Vaukner Gabrič  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Technician  2011 - 2012  15 
26.  34084  Robert Vogrinčič  Textile and leather  Researcher  2011 - 2013  30 
27.  30871  PhD Maja Zorc  Physics  Junior researcher  2010 - 2013  57 
Organisations (4)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publications
1.  0106  Jožef Stefan Institute  Ljubljana  5051606000  85,457 
2.  0481  University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty  Ljubljana  1626914  64,571 
3.  0795  University ob Maribor, Faculty of mechanical engineering  Maribor  5089638010  23,986 
4.  2316  Institute for the protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia  Ljubljana  1423215  3,396 
Lignocellulose (wood and annual plants) - based composites are becoming extremely important and highly perspective sustainable and renewable natural materials. Due to susceptibility to different biotic and abiotic factors they can deform and degrade. Various physico-chemical approaches have been used in the past to address these drawbacks, but generating new problems since these treatments might be harmful to the environment and/or be energy demanding.   To address these shortcomings, this project proposes development of an eco-friendly biotechnological/enzymatic (laccase-based) technological processes for crosslinking and covalent grafting of functional molecules (chemically different non-toxic phenolics) onto lignocellulose material surfaces, thus introducing targeted (multi)functional surface properties (wettability, hydrophobicity, antimicrobial activity, UV and flammability resistance, and/or colouration). To exploit enzymes’ main advantage (substrate specificity and regional selectivity), the project focuses to better understand lignin (chemical and morphological) surface structure present in different lignocellulosic materials; to better understand and guide enzymatic activation and modification of lignin in lignocellulosic materials; to better understand and guide enzymatic activation and graft polymerization of chemically different phenolic monomers onto activated lignin; and to obtain a novel low molecular weight bacterial laccase as a better alternative to commercially available fungal laccase. Finally, the new processes will be evaluated for their economic and environmental impact and compare with the existing products.   The nature and efficiency of newly developed procedures for biotechnological lignocellulosic material functionalisation will be investigated by standard and non-standard methods, respectively used in the fibre and wood science and technology. Several spectroscopies like fluorescence confocal microscopy (FCM), fluorescence microspectroscopy (FMS), electron paramagnetic resonance spin trapping (EPR ST), FTIR and Raman spectroscopy will be optimised for molecular characterization of lignocellulose surface structure, lignin and phenolic monomers activation, modification and polymerization using laccase. In addition, EPR ST 1D imaging will be developed to tackle depth-dependent activation.   New knowledge and methodologies will considerably contribute to the development of several scientific fields: wood science, fibre science, chemistry of polymers, biophysics of polymers, and biotechnology. New strategies for modification of lignocellulose fibres and wood-based products will be identified to contribute to the sustainable development of local, regional and European textile and wood industry. Since innovative, environmentally friendly materials and technologies can help to increase the added value of their products, a special care will be taken to disseminate the results within the scientific, professional and broader public communities.
Significance for science
The development and/or optimisation of the instrumental methods that was carried out in the implementation of the project “L4-3641 – Biotechnological processing of lignocellulosic materials” on the optimisation of characterization procedures for lignocellulosic materials structure determination, and optimisation of procedures to characterise the enzymatic activation and polymerization of phenolic monomers, brought about new findings in the field of instrumental methodology and significantly enhanced the ability to use several analytical methods (electron paramagnetic resonance spin trapping (EPR ST) and 1D imaging in solutions, FTIR and Raman spectroscopy, ?-size, capillary electrophoresis, cyclic voltametry) in science of lignocellulosic materials. Furthermore, the coupling of several analytical methods (capillary electrophoresis, cyclic voltametry, UV-Vis spectroscopy, oxygen consumption measurement – EPR ST, and FTIR-ATR, CIELAB, TGA) in unified analytical arrays presented a novelty on global scale. Various molecular biology techniques and bioinformatics tools utilisation has shown that laccases are not widespread only in the fungal kingdom, but also in bacteria (over 1200 potential genes were identified, also in extremophile bacteria), which is a novelty that opened a completely new field in research of these enzymes. Moreover, a novel functionalization of wood surfaces with UV-photoexcited metaloxide nanoparticles via coordination binding to wood polyphenols was the first attempt of a procedure with such complex nanoparticles. Therefore, a system of advanced analytical tools for molecular characterization of lignocellulose surface structure, lignin and phenolic monomers activation, modification and polymerization using laccase was developed, raising the possibility to perform research in the field of lignocellulose materials science and technology at the highest level. The thus far non-adequate understanding of chemical and morphological lignin structure on the surface of lignocellulosic materials (e.g. lignocellulosic fibres and wood), was expanded. There was even less understanding on the efficiency of lignin and phenolic monomers activation (oxidation) by laccase(s). The work on the project bridged this knowledge gap, allowing for the optimisation of the enzymatic lignocellulosic materials functionalisation. Therefore, the original findings of the project will considerably contribute to the development of science and/or several scientific fields (wood science, fibre science, chemistry of polymers, biophysics of polymers, and biotechnology). Several new discoveries on materials composition, the processes of activation of monomer phenolic compounds, and relevant advance in the development of analytical methods, and of new possibilities of acquisition of non-fungal laccases were published in SCI-cited journals, and presented on international scientific and professional conferences. In order to reach parts of Slovene audience that does not have the access to this literature, and to develop Slovene scientific language, a review article was featured in national scientific and professional journal. With that, the discussion and exchange of ideas within the scientific community, an unavoidable pre-condition for successful development of science, was fruitfully enhanced by the research conducted in the frame of the co-financed project.
Significance for the country
A successful effort of this project provided an excellent foundation for the development of a new, environmentally sound technology for the production of new, renewable materials with a significantly higher added value. That would give the economicaly still viable industrial partners – remaining beneficiaries (GOZD LJUBLJANA d.d., Brest-pohištvo d.o.o., Kolpa d.d., Metlika, Riko – Hiše, d.o.o.) a possibility to keep competitive edge over the competition in the forest products-based production chain. That will bring about the revelation within the wood processing and furniture sector that establishing a strong and vibrant connection to biotechnology and its advances is their most natural way to create materials with a higher added value, which would have a very profound impact on the whole sector. As environmentally sound and high-quality products, the enzymatically functionalised lignocellulosic materials, overcoming the shortcomings of the original material, would be a very good promotion opportunity for the commercialisation of renewable and not energy-demanding resources. The outcome of the proposed project will thusly contribute to Slovenia's environment and natural heritage conservation. The increase in competitive advantage of the beneficiaries will increase the potential for job retention and/or growth. The introduction of new technologies and the manufacture of new products, whose possibility of existence was brought about by successful completion of this project, created a potential for new employments with a high added value. The results of the project can therefore contribute to social cohesion and since wood production and manipulation are predominantly regional activities, also to balanced regional development. The work on the project was conducted in accordance with general priorities of the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology, and in agreement with the Strategic Research Agenda’s (SRA) of European "Forest-Based Technology Platform" (FTP) and the Slovene "Forest-Based Technology Platform" (SFTP). The results of performed research are therefore well embedded within development strategies of the national and European research area (ERA), and the conducted work contributed to its strengthening. The development of analytical methods, the discovery of the potential for biomining of new (proven by isolation and characterisation of two new laccases) functionalising enzymes, and the accumulation of knowledge in the production, characterisation, and manipulation of biotechnologically functionalised lignocellulosic surfaces throughout the duration of the project’s realisation represent the most favourable means of keeping in touch with the world’s scientific community – in wood science, as well as in the fields in which other researchers of the project consortium are active. With the presentation of the results, including but not limited to the incorporation in the education processes in wood science and technology, and textile materials and design (course lectures and practices, as well as hands on research work of the candidates for bachelor theses), the project has had an important contribution to the shift in the popular image of wood science and technology, and natural fibre science and technology from a field characteristic for utilisation of low-tech technologies to high-tech activity which generates high added value. With successful defence of their theses, several graduate school students (also Young Researchers Programme members) who were included in the project group begun their gradual development into top-tier scientists and professionals on the international level.
Most important scientific results Annual report 2010, 2011, 2012, final report, complete report on dLib.si
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Annual report 2010, 2011, 2012, final report, complete report on dLib.si
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