Medarbeidere og studenter ved Fakultet for kjemi, bioteknologi og matvitenskap - KBM, arbeider med gjær i pilotanlegget for bioraffinering ved NMBU.
Medarbeidere og studenter ved Fakultet for kjemi, bioteknologi og matvitenskap - KBM, arbeider med gjær i pilotanlegget for bioraffinering ved NMBU.Photo: Håkon Sparre

At BioRef, we research enzymology, fermentation, anaerobic digestion and microbial communities. A central topic is processing of lignocellulosic biomass to a range of products.

About Bioref

Bioref is a research group at NMBUs Faculty of chemistry, biotechnology and food science. 

The group runs a biorefining laboratory which include equipment like a steam explosion unit, hydrolysis reactors, fermentors, ultra/nanofiltration equipment and a spray dryer.

The group leader is professor Svein Jarle Horn.

  • Current activities:

    • Steam explosion pretretment of lignocellulosic biomass
    • Enzymatic saccharification of lignocellulose and seaweed
    • Fermentation for production of enzymes, single cell protein and oils
    • Process developent for fermentation: batch, fed-batch, continous
    • Microbial communities in biogas reactors and gut systems
    • Lignin characterization and valorization
    • Production of prebiotics from wood hemicelluloses
    • Beer brewing

    Finished projects:

    BioLiGas: Biocatalytic utilization of lignin for increased biogas production in a biorefinery setting  

    This project focus on production of biogas from lignocellulosic biomass in a biorefinery setting. More specifically, we will extract sugars prior to the biogas process to be used as a sugar platform for production of other products, while the lignin-enriched fraction will be used for biogas production. The main theme of this project is biocatalytic processing (with enzymes and microorganisms) of lignin to the gaseous fuel methane, a topic that has not been explored very well, but bears considerable potential. Biological processing of lignin to fuel (biogas) is a novel approach, which requires fundamental long-term research to build up analyses, methods and competence. Generally, there is a clear need for more knowledge related to lignin characterization and processing, whereas related “upstream” processes such as biomass fractionation and efficient production of sugar streams still can be improved considerably, in particular for some abundant Norwegian feedstocks. Although this  project is focused on developing novel paths towards biogas production, the knowledge gained in this project will be generic and useful for biomass valorisation, lignin biorefining and production of second generation biofuels in general. 

    WoodPrebiotics: Exploring tree-derived hemicelluloses as a source for prebiotics

    Developing consolidated biorefinery solutions which generate higher value products from woody biomass as compared with pulp and paper applications are of utmost importance. Hemicellulose in the form of xylan and mannan is a major constituent in woody biomass. Interestingly, the overall structure of these carbohydrates resembles prebiotic substances that are found in edible plants. This project entails the production of several low cost and highly defined prebiotic oligosaccharides from non-edible renewable natural resources. These will be produced and tailored by advanced enzymatic modifications, selectively removing various substituents. This project will increase the understanding of prebiotics, by identifying key structural elements that are determinants for the utilization of oligosaccharides by commensal bacteria in both the gastrointestinal tract tract of monogastric farm animals and humans. This analytically challenging project, will utilize state of the art in carbohydrate separation and characterization tools, novel enzyme technology combined with microbiology and DNA technology.  

    BIOFEED: Novel salmon feed by integrated bioprocessing of non-food biomass

    The project will develop bioprocessing technologies to exploit non-food biomass from wood (spruce) and brown macroalgae (Saccharina latissima and Alaria esculenta) as sustainable supply of high-quality proteins for fish feed. Synergies between the two feedstocks and optimal resource utilization will be achieved by combining the two sugar streams, and by making use of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and micronutrients in the macroalgae to optimize the fermentation media. The target species will be Atlantic salmon, but the results are highly relevant for other farmed fish species and farm animals such as pigs and poultry. The project builds on knowledge from woody biomass pretreatment and fractionation under development at Borregaard AS (“BALI process”), and on industrial development of cultivation and pre-treatment of brown macroalgae ongoing at Seaweed Energy Solutions AS.

    BiogasFuel: Biogas from organic residues and livestock manure as a vehicle fuel 

    Main objective: Maximize biogas yields to improve the role of biogas as a vehicle fuel substitute and thus reducing the CO2 emissions in the transport sector.

    Secondary objectives:

    1.            Increased process understanding and control by detailed characterization of the microbial community in biogas reactors both during process perturbation and stable operations.

    2.            Study the startup and stable operation of two commercial biogas plants, one mesophilic and one thermophilic, in regard to performance and microbiology to optimize biogas production.

    3.            Optimize biogas production from blends of food residues and livestock manure.

    4.            Test new substrates for biogas production which have the potential to realize the utilization of biogas as a fuel at large scale.

    5.            Utilizing the digestate as a soil amendment in agriculture by evaluation of its effects on soil biota, cation exchange capacity and physical characteristics.

    CAPTURE+: Sustainable biochar systems for a zero emission society

    Biochar is produced by heating organic material under oxygen-free conditions (pyrolysis). This process also produces a bio-oil and gas which can be used for energy purposes. The novelty of CAPTURE+ lies in the integration of enabling nano- and bio-technologies (enzyme- and fermentation technologies) to improve the process and ensure end products with an enhanced functional and economic value that may permit large scale adoption through different sectors and geographical regions. The integration of economic, societal and political analysis, as well as stakeholder involvement in technology development and implementation are also novel and crucial to the success of the project.

  • Foods of Norway, Bio4Fuels, Industrial Biotechnology, The Norwegian Seaweed Biorefinery Platform, BACS, HEMISURF, ImprovAFish, GreenPlantFood, UnveilMe, forskningsgruppen PEP, forskningsgruppen Memo, NIBIO, Nofima, Borregaard, Norilia, Cambi