Plant biomass and bioenergy

Plants constitute more than 80% of global biomass and of the carbon stored in living organisms. The majority of photosynthetically fixed 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 interests are in atmospheric CO2 capture and sequestration to plant biomass and degradation of plant biomass to bioenergy. 

Our research is aiming to understand cell wall degradation processes during plant development. The research of plant cell wall degrading enzymes for industrial purposes have from most part been concentrated on how cell wall can be degraded by other organisms, such as prokaryotes, protists, fungi and invertebrates. However, it is essential for plant itself to be able 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, in response to certain environmental conditions but also in plant-to-plant interactions (parasitic plants). The main focus is on discovering strong degradative enzyme activities against plant cell wall from diverse plant species, and understanding the molecular basis of the wall-deconstructing activity.

The project is also interested in other important Bioenergy-related themes, such as CO2 assimilation and utilization, and converting waste to high-value bio-products. We are part of the UiT's strategic project ABSORB aiming to study biological processes unique to Arctic region in carbon channeling into marine (blue) and terrestrial (green) biomass, and establish new biotechnologies and innovations for carbon capture and utilization based on the Arctic biomes.

The research group is a part of the research community at ARC - Arctic Centre for Sustainable Energy established 2016 at the UiT The Arctic University of Norway. 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.

 

PI Dr. Katja Karppinen

 

We have interesting Bachelor and Master's student topics available. If you are interested in joining the team, please contact:
Katja Karppinen