Every year a vast quantity of raw materials is extracted across the world. These are mainly metals, minerals, fossil fuels and biomass. Today most of the extracted materials are non-renewable, placing a heavy burden on the environment, societies, and climate. Global production of materials accounts for a large proportion of the total emissions of greenhouse gases, and the production of metals requires a lot of energy.
To meet these challenges, the Wallenberg Initiative Material Science for Sustainability research program focuses on four areas: conversion, storage and distribution of clean energy; circular materials replacing rare, energy-demanding, and hazardous materials; mitigation, cleaning and protection of atmosphere, soil, and water and discovery of materials for novel sustainable technologies.
“To meet climate and environmental targets industry needs to transition towards sustainability at a swifter rate. For this reason, the research program will be conducted in collaboration with Swedish industry in the form of industrial PhDs and postdocs, and also via research arenas allowing an exchange of knowledge and problems between academia and private enterprises. Industry acquires knowledge generated by research in materials science, and researchers gain insights into the technological and application challenges faced by companies,” says Sara Mazur, director strategic research at Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, and chair of the program.
“We aspire to establish Sweden as a leading nation in this research field. The overall aim is to facilitate sustainable technologies and to educate the leaders of tomorrow in society, industry and academia,” explains Peter Wallenberg Jr.
Extended grant to Wallenberg Wood Science Center
Wallenberg Wood Science Center was founded in 2009 with the aim of developing new innovative materials from the Swedish forest. Chalmers has participated since the start and can today include researchers from five different departments.
“Being part of this multidisciplinary center with a graduate school that has a strong educational program has meant a lot to the researchers. Collaboration across disciplinary boundaries has contributed to new cutting-edge research. At Chalmers, the ability to characterize biomass and developed material have been deepened and new process concepts established. Among other things, we have worked with advanced methods at the ForMAX beam-line at MAXIV in Lund,” says Lisbeth Olsson, professor in industrial biotechnology at Chalmers and co-director at WWSC.
With the increased grant, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has now funded a total of just over SEK 1 billion in research within WWSC. The grant will support research of renewable materials within the program "New materials from trees for a sustainable future".
“It’s fantastic that KAW has decided to continue and expand its funding for the Wallenberg Wood Science Center. It’s incredibly valuable for Chalmers researchers that we can continue the work. The clear focus on sustainable materials provides even greater opportunities to solving the major societal challenges,” says Lisbeth Olsson.
Replacing oil with wood in the manufacture of plastics, creating stronger and fireproof materials, as well as new functional materials are some of the goals of the Wallenberg Wood Science Center. The funding has, among other things, resulted in transparent wood and paper that has been made magnetic, electrically conductive, and fire-resistant. Other examples are bio-based plastics, adhesives, and porous materials.
“This long-term research initiative is intended to make possible a more sustainable future, to make the Swedish forest sector more competitive, and to pave the way for new enterprises based on innovations in this field,” says Wallenberg Jr.
Lisbeth Olsson; Thor Balkheden
Peter Wallenberg Jr; Samuel Unéus
The universities participating in WISE are Uppsala University, Lund University, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Chalmers University of Technology, Stockholm University and Linköping University, which is also hosting the program. Under the program, 25 international research teams will be recruited, and a postgraduate school will be established, offering 180 PhD positions, 30 of them industrial PhD students, along with 180 postdoctoral positions, of which 30 will be industrial postdoctoral positions.
The expansion of Wallenberg Wood Science Center program, which is being conducted at Chalmers, KTH and Linköping University, means that six research leaders, 18 PhD students, and the same number of postdocs can be recruited, along with four visiting professors.
Wallenberg Initiative Material Science for Sustainability
Wallenberg Wood Science Center