Biomass Refining

Major in Finnish: Biomassan jalostustekniikka

Code: CHEM3021
Extent: 60 cr + 4-5 cr
Professor in charge: Herbert Sixta

Biomass refining constitutes the sustainable processing of biomass into a spectrum of marketable products and energy. The key technological contents of the major are treatment of biomass with tailored mechanical, chemical, biochemical and thermochemical processes leading to selective and efficient fractionation of the biomass components into functional fractions, and further refining of the fractions to fibres, polymers, chemical compounds and fuels or their reactants. The focus point of the major is the physiological function and structure of plants as well as the reactivity of the chemical components of lignocellulosic biomass in the conversion processes. Great attention is paid to process integration modelling, taking into account recycling and waste management. This includes the development of an integrated, rational and transparent evaluation framework for sustainable assessments, such as Life Cycle Assessments (LCA).

The major Biomass Refining applies knowledge of the fields of biotechnology, chemistry, and process technology.

Learning outcomes

After graduating from the major, the students:

  • are able to describe the global availability of biomass feedstocks and can formulate scientifically justified arguments on the sustainable use of biomass.
  • can give an overall description of biomass structure, from macro structural aspects to microscopic and molecular level, the emphasis being on the plant cell wall architecture and the structure and interactions of lignocellulosic components (cellulose, lignin, hemicelluloses, resins and inorganic compounds).
  • can identify the principal cellular organisms relevant in biomass refining and describe and apply the principles and practices in (bio)catalysis and explain how biosynthesis of plant cell wall constituents and cellular metabolites proceeds.
  • can model and simulate mass and energy phenomena in multiphase systems and are able to calculate material and energy balances of complex systems.
  • have thorough knowledge of the separation methods used in biomass refining, and based on this knowledge can formulate suggestions for practical applications.
  • can predict and describe chemical reactions of biomass components in different conditions and can design and perform experiments to test the hypotheses.
  • can give detailed scientific and technical descriptions on the industrial-scale mechanical, thermo-chemical, chemical, and biochemical methods for biomass fractionation into platforms (carbohydrates, lignin, extractives).
  • are able to suggest feasible and sustainable production schemes for value-added products from the platforms, including LCA analysis of the products.
  • can perform biomass fractionation experiments in practice and can use the most relevant analytical methods and equipment for analysing and characterising the products.
  • demonstrate an understanding of societal, economical, and environmental effects of engineering solutions.

Content and structure

For the major (60 ECTS + 4-5 ECTS credits) all students have to take the same common and compulsory studies of 4-5 cr + 60 cr.

580px Biomass refining 2016

Figure 2. Structure of Biomass Refining major

Table 2. Common compulsory courses (4-5 cr)

Code Name Credits Period/year
CHEM-E0100 Academic Learning Community 4-5 I-V / 1st


Table 3. Compulsory courses (60 cr)

Code Name Credits Period/year
CHEM-E1100 Plant Biomass 5 I / 1st
CHEM-E1110 Lignocellulose Chemistry 5 II / 1st
CHEM-E7100 Engineering Thermodynamics, Separation Processes, part I 5 I / 1st
CHEM-E7110 Engineering Thermodynamics, Separation Processes, part II 5 II / 1st
CHEM-E1120 Thermochemical Processes 5 III-V / 1st
CHEM-E1130 Catalysis 5 III-IV / 1st
CHEM-E1140 Catalysis for Biomass Refining 5 IV-V / 1st
CHEM-E3140 Bioprocess Technology II 5 II / 1st
CHEM-E1150 Biomass Pretreatment and Fractionation – in Class 5 III-V / 1st
CHEM-E1160 Biomass Pretreatment and Fractionation – in Laboratory 5 III-V / 1st
CHEM-E1200 Integration and Products 10 I-II / 2nd








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