What’s the research about?
The way in which cellulose interacts with water is one area that will be studied during the forthcoming research programme. New measurement equipment will be used to try to resolve problems and obtain new knowledge.
What are the challenges in this field?
The greatest challenge is how to describe, in theoretical terms, the non-ionic interaction between cellulose and water. You need a scientific problem that can be addressed using available or new measurement methods. Tomas (who won the Ekman-medal 2017) believes that it will also be possible to answer these questions by combining various advanced measurement methods.
How do you solve the challenges?
There are various ideas about what sort of properties are important in a material to make it usable. In this area, it mainly involves looking at the structure of the cellulose.
“The structure is absolutely vital, whether you are creating new materials, or breaking down cellulose into sugars or using it as a chemical,” says Tomas Larsson.
If you do not have a handle on the structure, you may not understand whether or not you have a material that is suitable for its purpose. One reason for not having characterised the material earlier is that it was considered too difficult. First off, you need to develop a methodology for taking reliable measurements. Once the measurement process allows you to understand the structure, you can move on to the isolation process and customise the material for a variety of applications.
“I hope that we can continue to solve relevant and interesting problems during the upcoming research programmes,” Tomas says.