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Chemistry of Renewable Materials

Nature synthesizes a plethora of substances as energy reserves, structural reinforcement, and many other essential functions.

The course provides a thorough overview of the chemical structure, reactivity, processing, applications, and degradation of renewable biomass.

You will learn fundamentals of safety, regulatory, and sustainability aspects of bio-based materials in order to establish a holistic understanding of the concept of circular bioeconomy.

The theoretical content of the course will be supplemented by laboratory exercises through which you will get experience in design, fabrication, and characterization of renewable materials.

  • Course structure

    Theoretical part (5 ECTS)

    • Introduction to renewable resources Renewable vs. non-renewable resources, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen cycles, dimensions of sustainability and life cycle analyses (LCA), circular economy and outlook on biomass utilization.
    • Chemistry and applications of cellulose and non-cellulosic polysaccharides as well as polyphenols, lipids, and proteins extraction, structure, morphology, reactions, materials, and applications. Case studies*.
    • Biomass conversion processes. Chemicals and polymers from biomass by chemical processes and biological conversion processes. Case studies*.
    • Polymer blends, composites, hybrid materials, and nature-inspired materials Self-assembly, miscibility, phase separation, compatibility, interfacial attractive/repulsive forces, production methods, biomineralisation, hydrophobic surfaces, adhesives, insect sclerotization. Case studies*.
    • Bio-based material degradation, biodegradation, and environmental impacts Weathering, biodegradation, protection against degradation, adsorption of ions and potential pollutants. Case studies*.
    • Characterization techniques for renewable materials. Mass and energy balances and common techniques to analyze conversion of raw materials into useful materials. Material characterization by thermal, mechanical, spectroscopy, spectrometry, microscopy (OM, EM, AFM, chromatography, and scattering techniques. Case studies*.
    • Student case studies and research trends in chemistry of renewable materials Presentation of case studies in small groups: focus on sustainability (light LCA and circular economy) as well as regulatory and toxicological issues of bio-derived nanomaterials (cell compatibility etc.). Introduction of recent research in connection to the laboratory exercises.

    *The case studies dwell deeper into the themes of sustainable chemistry in connection to the course content. In addition, you will receive assignments that are due prior to lectures.

    Laboratory exercises (2.5 ECTS)

    • Preparation of colloidal lignin particles gravimetric analyses, mass balance calculations, measurements of particle diameter (DLS) and Zeta-potential.
    • Adsorption of polymers on lignin particles. Determination of the point of zero charge and the amount of polymer required for charge reversal.
    • Fabrication and characterization of nanocomposite hydrogels Measurement of viscosity and enzymatic biodegradability of nanocellulose-based nanocomposite hydrogels.


    Theoretical part (5 ECTS)

    Laboratory exercises (2.5 ECTS)

    Teaching format

    Lectures and assignments
    Most of the lectures contain case studies and discussions of assignments. In addition, you will work in a small group on a case study that the group will present to the class. You will also serve as an opponent to assess other groups' presentations.

    Laboratory reports and a poster presentation (electronic and print) that are corrected until the level of reporting is acceptable.


    Laboratory exercises: (pass/fail).

    Completion of lab reports and poster presentation on time.

    Written exam.




  • Schedule

    The schedule will be available no later than one month before the start of the course. We do not recommend print-outs as changes can occur. At the start of the course, your department will advise where you can find your schedule during the course.
  • Course reports

  • Contact



    Course coordinator and examiner
    Chemistry Section & Student Affairs Office