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    Mongabay, a leading resource for news and perspectives on environmental and conservation issues related to the tropics, has launched Tropical Conservation Science - a new, open access academic e-journal. It will cover a wide variety of scientific and social studies on tropical ecosystems, their biodiversity and the threats posed to them. Tropical Conservation Science - March 8, 2008.

    At the 148th Meeting of the OPEC Conference, the oil exporting cartel decided to leave its production level unchanged, sending crude prices spiralling to new records (above $104). OPEC "observed that the market is well-supplied, with current commercial oil stocks standing above their five-year average. The Conference further noted, with concern, that the current price environment does not reflect market fundamentals, as crude oil prices are being strongly influenced by the weakness in the US dollar, rising inflation and significant flow of funds into the commodities market." OPEC - March 5, 2008.

    Kyushu University (Japan) is establishing what it says will be the world’s first graduate program in hydrogen energy technologies. The new master’s program for hydrogen engineering is to be offered at the university’s new Ito campus in Fukuoka Prefecture. Lectures will cover such topics as hydrogen energy and developing the fuel cells needed to convert hydrogen into heat or electricity. Of all the renewable pathways to produce hydrogen, bio-hydrogen based on the gasification of biomass is by far both the most efficient, cost-effective and cleanest. Fuel Cell Works - March 3, 2008.

    An entrepreneur in Ivory Coast has developed a project to establish a network of Miscanthus giganteus farms aimed at producing biomass for use in power generation. In a first phase, the goal is to grow the crop on 200 hectares, after which expansion will start. The project is in an advanced stage, but the entrepreneur still seeks partners and investors. The plantation is to be located in an agro-ecological zone qualified as highly suitable for the grass species. Contact us - March 3, 2008.

    A 7.1MW biomass power plant to be built on the Haiwaiian island of Kaua‘i has received approval from the local Planning Commission. The plant, owned and operated by Green Energy Hawaii, will use albizia trees, a hardy species that grows in poor soil on rainfall alone. The renewable power plant will meet 10 percent of the island's energy needs. Kauai World - February 27, 2008.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Breakthrough in selective CO2 capturing materials; could make bioenergy carbon-negative

Chemists from the University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA) have made a major advancement in the development of CO2 capturing materials, which they report in the Feb. 15 issue of the journal Science. The scientists have demonstrated that they can successfully isolate and capture carbon dioxide with a class of new materials known as zeolitic imidazolate frameworks (ZIFs). Their findings could lead to power plants efficiently capturing the greenhouse gas without using toxic materials, after which it can be stored in geological formations. The new materials make carbon capture less energy demanding, and can store up to five times as much CO2 than porous carbon materials being designed for the same task.

When carbon capture and storage (CCS) is coupled to biomass energy production, negative emissions are the result. Such carbon-negative bioenergy systems - which actively remove CO2 from the atmosphere - are the most radical tool in the climate fight. They come in the form of decarbonised bio-electricity or biohydrogen. Ordinary renewables like solar, wind, non-CCS bioenergy or hydropower are all 'carbon-neutral' at best, that is, they do not add new or only modest amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere, but they do not take the greenhouse gas out if either. Bioenergy with carbon storage does. The difference can be very significant: whereas the lifecycle carbon emissions of ordinary renewables and nuclear range between +10 to +100 grams of CO2eq per kWh, bioenergy coupled to CCS can yield as high as -1000gCO2/kWh (that is: minus 1000 grams, hence "negative emissions"), and thus clean up the atmosphere by removing CO2 from the past.

Efficient and affordable CO2 capturing technologies are needed to make such carbon-negative bioenergy systems feasible (see list of references below for an overview of developments). The UCLA breakthrough, made at professor Omar Yaghi's lab, goes a long way in meeting this need:
The technical challenge of selectively removing carbon dioxide has been overcome. Now we have structures that can be tailored precisely to capture carbon dioxide and store it like a reservoir, as we have demonstrated. No carbon dioxide escapes. Nothing escapes — unless you want it to do so. We believe this to be a turning point in capturing carbon dioxide before it reaches the atmosphere. - Omar M. Yaghi, UCLA's Christopher S. Foote Professor of Chemistry and co-author of the Science paper
The carbon dioxide is captured using a new class of materials designed by Yaghi and his group called zeolitic imidazolate frameworks, or ZIFs. These are porous and chemically robust structures, with large surface areas, that can be heated to high temperatures without decomposition and boiled in water or organic solvents for a week and still remain stable.

Rahul Banerjee, a UCLA postdoctoral research scholar in chemistry and Anh Phan, a UCLA graduate student in chemistry, both of whom work in Yaghi's laboratory, synthesized 25 ZIF crystal structures and demonstrated that three of them have high selectivity for capturing carbon dioxide (ZIF-68, ZIF-69, ZIF-70).

The selectivity of ZIFs to carbon dioxide is unparalleled by any other material, said Yaghi, who directs of UCLA's Center for Reticular Chemistry and is a member of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA. Rahul and Anh were so successful at making new ZIFs that, for the purposes of reporting the results, Yaghi had to ask them to stop.

The inside of a ZIF can store gas molecules. Flaps that behave like the chemical equivalent of a revolving door allow certain molecules — in this case, carbon dioxide — to pass through and enter the reservoir while blocking larger molecules or molecules of different shapes:
We can screen and select the one type of molecule we want to captureThe beauty of the chemistry is that we have the freedom to choose what kind of door we want and to control what goes through the door. - Anh Phan, a UCLA graduate student in chemistry, developer of selectiv ZIFs
In ZIFs 68, 69 and 70, Banerjee and Phan emptied the pores, creating an open framework. They then subjected the material to streams of gases - carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, for example, and another stream of carbon dioxide and nitrogen — and were able to capture only the carbon dioxide. They are testing other ZIFs for various applications:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Currently, the process of capturing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants involves the use of toxic materials and requires 20 to 30 percent of the plant's energy output, Yaghi said. By contrast, ZIFs can pluck carbon dioxide from other gases that are emitted and can store five times more carbon dioxide than the porous carbon materials that represent the current state-of-art. For each liter of ZIF, you can hold 83 liters of carbon dioxide.

On a fundamental level, the invention of ZIFs has addressed two major challenges in zeolite science. Zeolites are stable, porous minerals made of aluminum, silicon and oxygen that are employed in petroleum refining and are used in detergents and other products. Yaghi's group has succeeded in replacing what would have been aluminum or silicon with metal ions like zinc and cobalt, and the bridging oxygen with imidazolate to yield ZIF materials, whose structures can now be designed in functionality and metrics.

Banerjee and Anh automated the process of synthesis. Instead of mixing the chemicals one reaction at a time and achieving perhaps several reactions per day, they were able to perform 200 reactions in less than an hour. The pair ran 9,600 microreactions and from those reactions uncovered 25 new structures. The scientists say they keep producing new crystals of ZIFs every day.

Co-authors are Bo Wang, a UCLA graduate student in chemistry in Yaghi's laboratory; Carolyn Knobler and Hiroyasu Furukawa of the Center for Reticular Chemistry at the UCLA's California NanoSystems Institute; and Michael O'Keeffe of Arizona State University's department of chemistry and biochemistry.

BASF, a global chemical company based in Germany, funded the synthesis of the materials, and the U.S. Department of Energy funded the absorption and separation studies of carbon dioxide.

Image: The single crystal x-ray structures of ZIFs. (Left and Center) In each row, the net is shown as a stick diagram (Left) and as a tiling (Center). (Right) The largest cage in each ZIF is shown with ZnN4 tetrahedra in blue, and, for ZIF-5, InN6 octahedra in red. H atoms are omitted for clarity. Credit: Yaghi Lab.

Eurekalert: New materials can selectively capture carbon dioxide, UCLA chemists report - February 15, 2007.

The reference to the Science article was not yet available at the time of writing; we will update this article as soon as it does.

Yaghi's team did publish about ZIFs earlier:

Hideki Hayashi, Adrien P. Côté, Hiroyasu Furukawa, Michael O'Keeffe & Omar M. Yaghi, "Zeolite A imidazolate frameworks" [*.pdf - at Yaghi Lab], Nature Materials 6, 501 - 506 (2007), Published online: 27 May 2007 | doi:10.1038/nmat1927

Omar M. Yaghi, et. al. "Exceptional chemical and thermal stability of zeolitic imidazolate frameworks" [*.pdf - at Yaghi Lab], PNAS, July 5, 2006, vol. 103, no. 27, 10186-10191, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0602439103

Yaghi Laboratory.

Scientific literature on negative emissions from biomass:
H. Audus and P. Freund, "Climate Change Mitigation by Biomass Gasificiation Combined with CO2 Capture and Storage", IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme.

James S. Rhodesa and David W. Keithb, "Engineering economic analysis of biomass IGCC with carbon capture and storage", Biomass and Bioenergy, Volume 29, Issue 6, December 2005, Pages 440-450.

Noim Uddin and Leonardo Barreto, "Biomass-fired cogeneration systems with CO2 capture and storage", Renewable Energy, Volume 32, Issue 6, May 2007, Pages 1006-1019, doi:10.1016/j.renene.2006.04.009

Christian Azar, Kristian Lindgren, Eric Larson and Kenneth Möllersten, "Carbon Capture and Storage From Fossil Fuels and Biomass – Costs and Potential Role in Stabilizing the Atmosphere", Climatic Change, Volume 74, Numbers 1-3 / January, 2006, DOI 10.1007/s10584-005-3484-7

Further reading on negative emissions bioenergy and biofuels, and carbon capture techniques:
Peter Read and Jonathan Lermit, "Bio-Energy with Carbon Storage (BECS): a Sequential Decision Approach to the threat of Abrupt Climate Change", Energy, Volume 30, Issue 14, November 2005, Pages 2654-2671.

Stefan Grönkvist, Kenneth Möllersten, Kim Pingoud, "Equal Opportunity for Biomass in Greenhouse Gas Accounting of CO2 Capture and Storage: A Step Towards More Cost-Effective Climate Change Mitigation Regimes", Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Volume 11, Numbers 5-6 / September, 2006, DOI 10.1007/s11027-006-9034-9

Biopact: Commission supports carbon capture & storage - negative emissions from bioenergy on the horizon - January 23, 2008

Biopact: The strange world of carbon-negative bioenergy: the more you drive your car, the more you tackle climate change - October 29, 2007

Biopact: "A closer look at the revolutionary coal+biomass-to-liquids with carbon storage project" - September 13, 2007

Biopact: New plastic-based, nano-engineered CO2 capturing membrane developed - September 19, 2007

Biopact: Plastic membrane to bring down cost of carbon capture - August 15, 2007

Biopact: Pre-combustion CO2 capture from biogas - the way forward? - March 31, 2007

Biopact: Towards carbon-negative biofuels: US DOE awards $66.7 million for large-scale CO2 capture and storage from ethanol plant - December 19, 2007

Biopact: Biochar and carbon-negative bioenergy: boosts crop yields, fights climate change and reduces deforestation - January 28, 2008

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First datasets for U.S. "National Biomass and Carbon Dataset" now available; useful tool for bioenergy sector

Scientists at the Woods Hole Research Center working to produce America's "National Biomass and Carbon Dataset" for the year 2000 (NBCD2000) are releasing data from nine project mapping zones. All NBCD2000 data products are being made available for download on a zone-by-zone basis and free of charge from the NBCD2000 project website. The datasets are of interest to natural resource managers, especially those in silviculture and the bioenergy sector.

Through a combination of NASA satellite datasets, topographic survey data, land use/land cover information, and extensive forest inventory data collected by the USDA Forest Service - Forest Inventory and Analysis Program (FIA), NBCD2000 will provide an invaluable baseline for quantifying the carbon stock in U.S. forests and will improve current methods of assessing the carbon flux between forests and the atmosphere.
The availability of a high resolution dataset containing estimates of forest biomass and associated carbon stock is an important step forward in enabling researchers to better understand the North American carbon balance. - Dr. Josef Kellndorfer, project leader
As part of the NBCD2000 initiative, begun in 2005 and funded by NASA's Earth Science Program with additional support from the USGS/LANDFIRE, mapping is being conducted within 67 ecologically diverse regions, termed "mapping zones", which span the conterminous United States. Of the nine completed zones, 5 were finished during a 2-year pilot phase. Work on the remaining zones will be completed at a rate of roughly one zone every seven days. The project is scheduled for completion in early 2009:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Wayne Walker, a research associate at the Center who is also working on the project adds, that the data sets that are now available should be of interest to natural resource managers across the U.S. For the first time, high resolution estimates of vegetation canopy height and biomass are being produced consistently for the entire conterminous U.S.

Within each mapping zone data from the 2000 Shuttle Radar Topography Mission are combined with topographic survey data from the National Elevation Dataset (NED) to produce a radar-based map of vegetation canopy height. Subsequently, the map is used to generate estimates of actual vegetation height, biomass, and carbon stock using survey data from the U.S. Forest Service - FIA program and ancillary data sets from the National Land Cover Database 2001 (NLCD2001) project.

The NLCD2001 data layers are crucial inputs to the NBCD2000 project as they provide land cover and canopy density information used in the stratification/calibration process.

Because this is the first systematic, regional-scale study that uses radar data to quantify carbon storage in vegetation, the end result will not only provide valuable information on how well we can do with existing data, but will allow us to see how we might improve and refine requirements for future, more capable missions like DESDynI, which has been recommended by the National Research Council Decadal Survey on Earth Observation. - Diane Wickland, program manager for NASA's Terrestrial Ecology Program

The project website will be updated regularly as mapping zones are completed.

Forest resources and bioenergy
State forest services across the U.S. have been launching initiatives to tap forest resources as a source of bioenergy that can help overcome serious risks, including forest fires. Forest residues as a feedstock for cellulosic ethanol were left out of the recently approved Energy Bill, which requires 21 billion gallons of ethanol to be produced from biomass, including cellulosic materials, by the year 2022.

The provision doesn't limit using wood waste from national forests but it will not count toward the increased renewable fuels standard target in the energy bill. There is one exception in the definition: biomass from federal forests in the immediate vicinity of private homes qualifies for the renewable fuels standard. Several forestry services and policy makers have expressed their dissatisfaction with this measure and have stepped up efforts to get forestry residues included under the RFS.

A joint study by the US Departments of Agriculture and Energy (USDA and DOE) earlier concluded - in a report titled Biomass as Feedstock for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry: The Technical Feasibility of a Billion-Ton Annual Supply - that the land resources of the US could produce a sustainable supply of biomass sufficient to displace 30% or more of the country’s present petroleum consumption.

The study found that just forestland and agricultural land alone have a potential for 1.3 billion dry tons of biomass feedstock per year: 368 million dry tons from forestlands, 998 million dry tons from agriculture (table, click to enlarge).

The Woods Hole Research Center is dedicated to science, education and public policy for a habitable Earth, seeking to conserve and sustain forests, soils, water, and energy by demonstrating their value to human health and economic prosperity. The Center has initiatives in the Amazon, the Arctic, Africa, Russia, Asia, Boreal North America, the Mid-Atlantic, and New England including Cape Cod. Center programs focus on the global carbon cycle, forest function, landcover/land use, water cycles and chemicals in the environment, science in public affairs, and education, providing primary data and enabling better appraisals of the trends in forests.

Map: progress toward completion of the National Biomass and Carbon Dataset for the year 2000. Credit: Greg Fiske, Wayne Walker, Josef Kellndorfer, Woods Hole Research Center


Woods Hole Research Center: The National Biomass and Carbon Dataset 2000 (NBCD 2000).

Eurekalert: First datasets for national biomass and carbon dataset now available - February 14, 2008.

USDA - DOE: Biomass as Feedstock for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry: The Technical Feasibility of a Billion-Ton Annual Supply [*.pdf] - April 2005.

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DuPont and BP targeting multiple bio-butanol molecules; biofuel allows for higher blending ratios

DuPont and BP have announced that their partnership to develop and commercialize biobutanol (previous post and here) is targeting advanced metabolic pathways for 1-butanol as well as other higher octane biobutanol isomers. The companies also announced vehicle testing results demonstrating these advanced biofuels can increase the blending of biofuels in gasoline beyond the current 10 percent limit for ethanol without compromising performance. Furthermore, a full environmental lifecycle analysis of the targeted biobutanol production process has been commissioned.

Speaking at the Agra Informa Next Generation Biofuels conference in Hamburg, Germany, DuPont Biofuels Venture Manager David Anton and BP Biofuels Business Technology Manager Ian Dobson disclosed that the partnership has been developing biocatalysts to produce 1-butanol as well as 2-butanol and iso-butanol – higher octane biobutanol isomers that are of increased interest and utility from a fuels perspective.

Fuel testing conducted over the last 12 months by BP demonstrates that high octane biobutanol can deliver the exceptional performance characteristics (table, click to enlarge) the partnership has previously communicated (including improved energy density/fuel economy compared to current biofuel blends and use in existing fuels infrastructure) at fuel blends greater than the current 10 percent ethanol blend limit.
DuPont and BP were the first players in the area of advanced biofuels to announce our intent to not only improve the bio-process to produce commercial volumes of biobutanol, but also to pursue an integrated commercialization strategy that incorporates building pilot and commercial scale facilities, a complete fuel evaluation, and a full environmental life cycle analysis. - David Anton, DuPont Biofuels Venture Manager
Under the partnership, there currently are more than 60 patent applications in the areas of biology, fermentation processing, chemistry and end uses for biobutanol. The program is designed to deliver by 2010 a superior biobutanol manufacturing process with economics equivalent to ethanol:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

DuPont disclosed that those patents cover the higher octane isomers as well as the previously announced 1-butanol. According to Anton, this places the BP/DuPont partnership in a strong intellectual property position in the butanol areas of greatest interest.

Vehicle testing

Ian Dobson shared new BP engine and vehicle testing data that demonstrated high octane biobutanol at concentrations of 16 percent delivers similar fuel performance compared to current 10 percent ethanol blend gasoline fuels which importantly means that butanol can help achieve higher biofuel penetration without compromising fuel performance. BP has completed a testing program of 16 percent high octane butanol covering fuel formulation, short-term engine performance impacts and long-term, no harm and durability vehicle fleet trials.

Laboratory and vehicle assessment of butanol blends greater than 16 percent also have produced favorable test results. The results show that 16 percent high octane butanol blends have the added advantages of vapor pressure behavior and distillation curves comparable to regular gasoline and, unlike 10 percent ethanol, do not phase separate in the presence of water.

DuPont and BP have commissioned a full environmental life cycle analysis of the proposed biobutanol process that will utilize actual manufacturing design models to guide the process design.

On the basis of the vehicle test results they are now sharing, they believe that high octane butanol offers a way to break through the 10 percent constraint with ethanol in the current vehicle fleet, said Dobson.


Dupont: DuPont and BP Disclose Advanced Biofuels Partnership Targeting Multiple Butanol Molecules - February 14, 2008.

Biopact: DuPont outlines commercialisation strategies for biobutanol, cellulosic ethanol - February 22, 2007

Biopact: Fuel testing shows biobutanol performance similar to unleaded gasoline - April 20, 2007

Biopact: ABF, BP and DuPont in joint venture to build $400 million bioethanol, biobutanol plants in the UK - June 26, 2007

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Quantum Group to invest US$250 million in 4 ethanol plants, 100,000ha in Sumba; 60,000 jobs for poor local farmers

According to the Jakarta Post, the Quantum Group of Australia will invest up to US$250 million to develop 100,000 hectares of land in East Nusa Tenggara to grow cassava, as well as to set up four ethanol processing plants. The project is expected to provide employment to as many as 60,000 local farmers in one of Indonesia's most impoverished and underdeveloped regions. A memorandum of understanding between Quantum Petroleum, a subsidiary of Quantum Group, and the Southwest Sumba administration was signed Wednesday.

Quantum chief executive officer Ralph Michael said the firm would start building the first plant in the fourth quarter of this year, while construction would commence on the other three by the middle of next year. The firm will invest around US$200 million for building the four plants and US$50 million for the plantations.

The 100,000 hectares of plantations would produce at least 20 million tons of cassava, or five million tons of sweet potato. From that yield, a processing plant could produce 100,000 metric tons (approximately 132 million liters/33.1 million gallons) of bioethanol per year.

Cassava, or manioc, is a starch-rich tuber crop that thrives well in relatively poor soils and requires modest inputs (water, fertilizer). Ethanol made from the crop has been found to be a fuel with a favorable energy balance, making it an efficient biofuel (earlier post).

Poverty alleviation
According to the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), one of the CGIAR institutions, a cassava-based ethanol industry could, with a combined effort from the science and policy community, launch a rural renaissance that would benefit the poorest people across Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa (previous post). Likewise, the UN's FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) think developing countries could be ripe for a 'cassava industrial revolution' yielding vast new market and employment opportunities (more here).

It seems like Quantum's project is proving this, at least when it comes to job creation. According to Michael, the venture will employ around 60,000 local farmers to work on the plantations and expects to spend at least US$5 million for their wages each month. The Sumba administration is said to be very supportive, because this project will create employment for the local community.
We will support [the project] by providing the facilities they may need. This project will have a positive effect on the local economy. - Emanuel B. Eha, regent of Sumba
East Nusa Tenggara is one of Indonesia's poorest provinces. According to the World Resources Institute and the World Bank, the incidence of poverty on the island group was between 40 and 60 per cent at the beginning of the decade (map, click to enlarge).

The island of Sumba counts around 550,000 inhabitants, with the majority of the labor force employed in agriculture. The 60,000 projected jobs in the new biofuel venture could offer opportunities for 20 per cent of all of Sumba's farmers. The project is therefor seen as having a potentially major beneficial impact on poverty alleviation:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

In a bid to streamline business activities in the underdeveloped province, Quantum suggested the local administration improve infrastructure. Yoseph Wijaya, commercial director of PT Anugrah Kurnia Abadi, Quantum's Indonesian partner, has asked the local administration to develop necessary infrastructure such as expanding the airport runway. Anugrah has only a 5 percent share in the joint venture.

Sumba regent Emanuel B. Eha said the administration would fully support the business, and pledged to improve business infrastructure. Aside from biofuel business, Quantum is also planning to plant vegetables and breed Australian cattle.

Indonesia is the second country after Bulgaria where Quantum has invested in bioenergy development projects. Quantum is also interested to take over palm oil plantations and oil palm processing plants from other local companies.

Quantum originally planned to invest in the bioethanol project in Malaysia six months ago. However, the company decided to shift its operations to Indonesia because of unfavorable regulations set out by the Malaysian authorities.

Map: Indonesia and East Timor - incidence of poverty (2000). Credit: World Resources Institute.

Jakarta Post: Quantum to invest US$250 million on biofuel developments in Sumba - February 14, 2008.

Biopact: First comprehensive energy balance study reveals cassava is a highly efficient biofuel feedstock - April 18, 2007

Biopact: CIAT: cassava ethanol could benefit small farmers in South East Asia -
September 24, 2007

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The bioeconomy at work: Finnish Centre for Nanocellulosic Technologies created

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Helsinki University of Technology TKK and forest products group UPM have today established an internationally unique Finnish Centre for Nanocellulosic Technologies. It aims to create new applications for cellulose as a raw material, substance and end product. Cellulose-based nanofibres can be used to alter the structure of materials and create products that better correspond to future market needs.

Cellulose, the most common organic compound on Earth, is also the raw material for next-generation biofuels. In the future, integrated biorefineries will combine the production of advanced fuels, fibres and other renewable products in a cascading strategy in which one product's residues become feedstock for the next.

The Finnish Centre for Nanocellulosic Technologies will start operating on 1 March 2008. Its operations will be centralised in Otaniemi, Espoo. The Centre will employ around 40 researchers. It is an equal consortium of three partners with operations being financed by public and private investments.

Cellulose fibres (30 micrometres wide, 2-3 millimetres long) consist of nanofibrils that are about one-thousandth of the dimensions of a cellulose fibre. One of the challenges in research is to produce large quantities of nanofibrils of even quality.

Nanofibrils can be released from cellulose by a range of conversion technologies: acid hydrolysis, multiple mechanical shearing or enzymatic hydrolysis (schematic, click to enlarge).

Nanofibrils provide a number of possibilities for treating wood fibre materials and adding completely new properties to them. The mechanical properties of raw materials can be improved, their moisture behaviour controlled, electrical properties changed or optical properties adjusted:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Applications include special papers, paper coating, packages and building materials. In addition to the paper and packaging industry, the construction, vehicle, furniture, electronics, food product and cosmetics industries can create added value for their products using tailored fibre materials.

The forest industry is going through a major transition, and the utilisation of new technologies will provide a means for strengthening the competitiveness in the sector. By combining basic research, applied research and productisation and business competence, the partners aim to speed up the launch of new profitable products on the world’s market in the near future.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is the third largest contract research organisation in Europe. Its objective is to develop new technologies, create new innovations and value added thus increasing customer's competitiveness. With its know how VTT produces research, development, testing and information services to public sector and companies as well as international organisations.

The Helsinki University of Technology TKK is the leading technological university in Finland. TKK’s four faculties have 15,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students. Every year, about 1,000 students and more than 150 doctors graduate from TKK. This year, TKK will celebrate its one hundredth anniversary as a university.

UPM is one of the world’s leading forest products groups. The Group's sales in 2007 were EUR 10 billion, and it has about 26,000 employees. UPM's main products include printing papers, label materials and wood products. The company has production units in 14 countries and its main market areas are Europe and North America. UPM's shares are listed on stock exchange in Helsinki, and the company has an ADR programme on the OTC market in the United States.

VTT: VTT, Helsinki University of Technology and UPM to establish an internationally unique Finnish Centre for Nanocellulosic Technologies - February 14, 2008.

VTT: webcast - Finnish Centre for Nanocellulosic Technologies.

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FAO: significant increase in world cereal production forecast for 2008, but prices remain high

Early prospects point to the possibility of a significant increase in world cereal production in 2008, but international prices of most cereals remain at record high levels and some are still on the increase, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a new outlook. Farmers are responding to higher prices by planting more. High prices are caused by high oil prices, adverse weather last year, first-generation biofuels and low stocks. To monitor the global food market, the FAO also launched a new web portal: World Food Situation.

The FAO forecasts a significant increase in production, which follows expansion of winter grain plantings and good weather among major producers in Europe and in the United States, coupled with a generally satisfactory outlook elsewhere, according to FAO’s latest Crop Prospects and Food Situation report.

With dwindling stocks, continuing strong demand for cereals is keeping upward pressure on international prices, despite a record world harvest last season, the report said. International wheat prices in January 2008 were 83 percent up from a year earlier (graph, click to enlarge).

Although prices are high, total world trade in cereals is expected to peak in 2007/08, driven in great part by a sharp rise in demand for coarse grains, especially for feed use in the European Union, according the report.

Imports down, food bill up for poorest countries
Cereal imports for all Low-Income Food-Deficit countries in 2007/08 are forecast to decline by about 2 percent in volume, but as a result of soaring international cereal prices and freight rates, their cereal import bill is projected to rise by 35 percent for the second consecutive year. An even higher increase is anticipated for Africa. Prices of basic foods have also increased in many countries worldwide, affecting the vulnerable populations most, the report said.

In order to limit the impact of rising cereal prices on domestic food consumption, governments from both cereal importing and exporting countries have taken a range of policy measures, including lowering import tariffs, raising food subsidies, and banning or imposing duties on basic food exports:
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New portal
“High food prices and market uncertainties have become major global concerns, and wide access to up-to-date information and analysis is becoming critical,” said Henri Josserand of FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning system. To address this need for information and facilitate analysis on current developments in world food markets, FAO also announced the launch of a new web portal bringing together relevant FAO studies and data on the world food situation.

2008 cereal prospects

In North Africa, early prospects for the 2008 winter cereal crops are mixed, but in Southern Africa the overall outlook is satisfactory, despite severe localized floods. In several countries of Eastern Africa, another bumper cereal crop was gathered in 2007, but poor secondary crops are expected in Kenya and Somalia, according to the report.

In Asia, early indications point to a 2008 aggregate wheat crop around last year’s record level.

Overall prospects for the 2008 maize crop are satisfactory in South America, although the outlook remains uncertain in Argentina.

Flooding in southern Africa and South America
Heavy rains have caused severe flooding in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. Farmers in affected areas are in urgent need of seeds and other inputs for replanting during what is left of the main cropping season, which runs from October to April, and to prepare for the next planting season.

FAO and its humanitarian partners yesterday launched an appeal for $87 million for emergency assistance to flood-affected populations in the four countries. Of this, over $9 million will support FAO’s agricultural relief activities aimed at improving food security in flood-hit regions.

In Bolivia, severe floods have adversely affected over 42 000 families, who are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance, with numbers on the increase. Large cropped areas have been partially or totally lost.

Extreme cold weather in central Asia

Exceptionally low temperatures in several central Asian countries, in particular China, Mongolia, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, have caused human casualties and resulted in crop and livestock losses.

Worldwide, 36 countries are currently facing food crises, according to the report. Civil strife, war, political instability, refugees, internally displaced people, and adverse weather are the main causes of these crises (table, click to enlarge).

FAO - Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture: "Crop Prospects and Food Situation", N° 1, February 2008.

World Food Situation portal.

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