FunEnzFibres - From fundamentals to valorization: Enzymatic oxidation of cellulosic fibres and underlying mechanisms

FunEnzFibres - From fundamentals to valorization: Enzymatic oxidation of cellulosic fibres and underlying mechanisms


FunEnzFibres will explore novel mechano-enzymatic modifications on cellulose and cellulosic fibres using LPMOs and selected hydrolases for development of high-value products in the forest industry.



Increased use of renewable materials will be one of key issues in future bioeconomy. Well-performing, reasonably priced and sustainable raw materials are needed for the industry to succeed in this development. Cellulose, being the most abundant biopolymer on earth is an interesting raw material for many applications. Cellulose could be the super material of the future, replacing fossil-based materials in textiles, packaging and plastics, and create additional value in the forestry. However, for this potential to be realized, new approaches and tools to modify cellulose are needed.

Wood cellulose is currently used primarily for preparation of paper, paperboard and packaging. To increase a profit while maintaining the market balance, the forest industry will need to reorient towards higher value products e.g. textiles, hygiene and adsorbent products, composites, conductive materials, flexible circuits, printable electronics, and more. Simultaneously, the processing and refining methods must become more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. Recent development in enzyme technologies provide new possibilities.

Today, a new set of enzymes are ready to be explored. Lytic Polysaccharide Monooxygenases (LPMOs) are a novel versatile type of carbohydrate-modifying enzymes, which were discovered in 2010 (Vaaje-Kolstad et al., 2010). Most of application-oriented research on LPMOs has focused on lignocellulose saccharification, in which LPMOs greatly enhance hydrolytic efficiency in synergy with hydrolases.

In contrast, LPMO research on fibre modification has just begun. LPMOs are active on both amorphous and crystalline regions of celluloses, and importantly, introduces new functional groups at the cleavage site through an oxidative mechanism. These new functional groups can be expected to modify surface structure and integrity of pulp fibres, alter water binding properties and charge, and allow for fibre functionalization through site specific chemical modifications.

We aim to study LPMO induced modification on cellulosic materials in the present state-of-the-art project. We will examine the possibilities of LPMOs to open, rearrange and modify structurally different celluloses in combination with existing knowledge in enzymatic fibre refining, and investigate functionalization of cellulosic fibres with new reactive chemical groups. Based on these studies, we will propose industrial applications in close collaboration with the project industrial partners; Borregaard, MetsäFibre, UPM-Kymmene Corporation, Essity GHC R&D Tissue, Acticell GmbH, and Novozymes.


Scientific objectives:     

  • Elucidate key factors affecting oxidation of crystalline celluloses and cellulosic fibres by LPMOs and tailored LPMO variants, including tailoring of appended carbohydrate binding modules (CBMs)
  • Elucidate combined action of LPMOs and selected hydrolases on properties of cellulose and cellulosic fibres
  • Develop methods for insertion, identification, controlled localization and modification of functional groups in cellulosic fibres
  • Study effects of LPMOs on accessibility and reactivity of pulp fibres
  • Develop leading analytical tools to study relevant properties of cellulose fibres in all processing phases

Technical objectives:

  • Translate scientific findings to applications, especially
    - To develop new mechano-enzymatic processes that (1) are sustainable in terms of energy consumption and chemical use, and (2) produce fine-tuned regenerated cellulose products and nanocelluloses which creates value for our industrial partners
    - To develop applications of LPMO enzymes in targeted oxidation and subsequent functionalization of cellulosic fibres
More about the project

FunEnzFibres is a collaborative research project between VTT - Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd (Project leader), NMBU - Norwegian University of Life Sciences, and BOKU - University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna.


Project FunEnzFibres is supported under the umbrella of ERA-NET Cofund ForestValue by Academy of Finland, the Research Council of Norway and the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (BMLFUW). ForestValue has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement N° 773324.