Plant biomass and bioenergy

Plants constitute more than 80% of global biomass and of the carbon stored in living organisms. The majority of photosynthetically captured CO2 by vascular plants is stored in sugar polymers serving as building material of cell walls, making cellulose as the most abundant organic compound on earth. Thus, plant cell walls form major reservoir for carbon and energy to be utilized. However, this energy is not easily available due to the complex structure and wide range of chemical bonds and cross-linkages in plant cell walls.

Our research is a part of activities under ARC - Arctic Centre for Sustainable Energy established 2016 at the UiT. ARC is an interdisciplinary research Centre focusing on Arctic challenges within renewable energy and greenhouse gas management in order to create sustainable societies in the Arctic.

Our major research interest is to understand possibilities in cell wall degradation process. The research of plant cell wall degrading enzymes for industrial purposes have from most part been concentrated on how plant cell wall can be degraded by other organisms, such as prokaryotes, protists, fungi and invertebrates. However, it is essential for plant itself to modify its own cell wall, and plants are well-programmed to efficiently modify and degrade cell wall components when necessary. Cell wall remodelling and degradation takes place at specific stages of plant development and in response to certain environmental conditions but also in plant-to-plant interactions. The main focus is on discovering and engineering strong degradative enzyme activities against plant cell wall, and understanding the molecular basis of the wall-deconstructing activity.

We are also part of the UiT's strategic project ABSORB aiming to study biological processes unique to Arctic regions in CO2 channeling into terrestrial biomass. Our approahes to plant biomass survaillance include plant phenotyping by PlantEye 3D microscanner and hyperspectral imaging.

Our team:

PI Dr. Katja Karppinen

 

PhD student Hilary Edema
Imaging and Data Engineer for Plant Phenotyping Grzegorz Konert
Master's student Charlotte Bour (University of Helsinki)

We have interesting Bachelor and Master's thesis topics available. If you are interested in joining the team, please contact_Katja Karppinen