All agreements have now been signed, and the construction of the ForMAX instrument at MAX IV is starting. This is a result of co-investments made by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and the Swedish forest industry. The decision by the foundation to provide 100 MSEK for setting up the instrument was made in 2017, and now industry provides 80 MSEK through the recently started Treesearch collaboration platform for operating the instrument until 2030.
The ForMAX instrument will be the core component the ForMAX Portal, which will be a unique environment dedicated to supporting researchers in the characterisation of materials from the forest. Thus, the ForMAX Portal contributes to the development of a competitive future Swedish forest industry concerning new and improved materials and products for society. The portal promotes the development of knowledge and competence by providing an environment for cutting-edge research. The majority of ForMAX-related research projects are funded through the Wallenberg Wood Science Center, with more than 100 academic researchers
Daniel Söderberg, Director of the collaboration platform Treesearch (www.treesearch.se), explains the necessity of the ForMAX investment.
– ForMAX provides both industrial and academic researchers with a unique tool to advance their research and development – from studying the building blocks of nature’s materials, biopolymers derived from wood to developing applications such as new batteries and functional textiles. It will be a unique infrastructure asset to all research efforts utilising the Treesearch collaboration platform, including the 10-years extension of Wallenberg Wood Science Center 2019–2028, which is funded jointly by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, industry and universities.
Marianne Liebi, assistant professor at Chalmers, adds why she is awaiting the ForMAX instrument.
– The possibility for structural characterization from molecular to macroscopic length scales, with good temporal resolution, will allow me and my colleagues to understand novel and complex processes such as cellulose-based 3D printing.
The forest industry is a cornerstone of the Swedish economy, and it also has the potential to be a key player in a future global bioeconomy, where the increased need for sustainable fossil-free materials and chemicals provides new opportunities. To address this transformation, significant research efforts are needed to generate the necessary knowledge and competence that can foster the development of new bio-based products. These research efforts involve universities, research institutes and industry, and access to advanced characterisation techniques are essential. The techniques needed are not only provided by the ForMAX instrument but also techniques provided by other instruments at MAX IV that are accessible through the ForMAX Portal. Thus, the ForMAX Portal will be an exceptional resource for Swedish research initiatives, such as Wallenberg Wood Science Center, giving Sweden a unique opportunity to take the lead in the development of a future global bioeconomy.
– The transition from fossil-based to bio-based resources is imperative, and we have to take the lead to maintain Sweden’s position and future competitiveness on global markets, says Magnus Wikström, Senior Vice President Innovation at BillerudKorsnäs.
The ForMAX Portal provides advanced user support by teams providing expertise concerning measurement methodology as well as leading competence in all aspects regarding materials and processes related to forest raw materials. These experts act as a bridge between researchers in industry and academia and the instruments at MAX IV, supporting the researchers in all project stages – preparation and sample optimisation, performing the experiment, data analysis and dissemination.
Aleksandar Matic, professor at Chalmers and coordinator of the ForMAX portal, expands on the need for the portal.
– The ForMAX portal offers training and education on X-ray methods and advanced user support. These activities are crucial when introducing new and inexperienced user communities to advanced experimental tools. Through the portal, the awareness of the possibilities with X-ray techniques will increase in industry, and industrial researchers will be stimulated to identify where these techniques can provide the solution to their problems.
The ForMAX Portal aims to lower the barrier for new users and to increase the quality and efficiency of the research. A central part is also to provide information on possibilities and capabilities of X-ray techniques, adaption of experiments with suitable sample environment and training of new users.
– Most of our industrial researchers have limited previous experience in using the tools offered by ForMAX and other instruments at MAX IV. Therefore, the establishment of the ForMAX Portal is essential and the right way to bridge the knowledge gaps, in order for us to grow as a new user community of advanced x-ray techniques, concludes Mats Qvarford, Program Manager, Tetra Pak.
Kim Nygård, project leader for the instrument ForMAX, often referred to as a beamline, which is an essential part of the ForMAX portal is very excited.
– This portal gives me, and my colleagues at MAX IV means to address the needs and demands of the forest industry and the research on new materials from the forest. In particular, this ensures that the tools and techniques developed at ForMAX and other beamlines at MAX IV can be used effectively by our industrial partners for their research and development projects.
The construction of the ForMAX beamline at MAX IV Laboratory is funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. The operation of the beamline is covered by the platform Treesearch (www.treesearch.se), which presently consists of Ahlström-Munksjö, BilllerudKorsnäs, Holmen, Neste, SCA, StoraEnso, Södra, Tetra Pak, Chalmers, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Linköping University, Lund University, Mid Sweden University, SLU Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and RISE.
New materials from the forest
Wood is made of cellulose embedded in a matrix of hemicellulose and lignin, forming wood fibres. Apart from the use of wood as timber, it is the cellulose in the wood fibres that is the primary basis for today’s products from the forest, in the form of pulp fibres used for making paper and cardboard, e.g. packaging.
Wood fibres can also be taken apart into its nanoscale components, nanocellulose, giving rise to the development of wood nanotechnology. Novel materials based on nanocellulose can lead to new materials with outstanding performance and novel functions, such as super strong fibres and fossil-free barrier materials. The transition from micro- (wood fibres) to nanoscale (nanocellulose) material building-blocks have the potential to provide a paradigm shift for the forest industry. It is also possible to use the other wood components, hemicelluloses and lignin, to make, e.g., biobased barrier materials and carbon fibres.
Making new materials from wood at an industrial scale requires both a better knowledge and understanding of the composition of wood and the processes to make the materials. Although much of the composition and structure of wood is known, there are still knowledge gaps. For instance, what is happening with wood fibres during the pulping process at the nanoscale level is to a large extent unknown. With better knowledge, this may lead to more energy-efficient processes and new types of pulp qualities, tailored for other end-uses than traditional papermaking, e.g., for textiles. Another example is for cellulose nanofibers that can be spun into continuous fibres with unique properties. The assembly process for doing this is a complex interplay between the nanocellulose and flow dynamics of the suspension. In situ nanoscale characterisation would help us understand the process, which is necessary for the further improvement of the process itself and the ensuing product. The ForMAX Portal is a provider of possibilities for studying wood-based materials and processes at all the required length scales and in-situ using X-rays.