The production of fine and industrial chemicals and bioactive compounds based on renewable, naturally occurring raw materials has become an exciting research topic, but so far only few studies concern side products of the forest industry. We will focus on bark and on peat. Bark is a high-volume waste product, currently largely unutilized as a raw material. Northern Europe and Russia have abundant peat reserves, offering a rich source of complex molecules for many application areas. White birch, pine and spruce form the basis for a very large wood industry. Betulin and suberin are the major components of the bark of birch trees.
Betulin is a precursor of triterpenoid compounds having important pharmacological, physiological or biological properties useful in pharmaceutical and industrial applications. Interesting possibilities for betulin exist also in cosmetics and in agricultural applications. Suberin is the other main component of birch outer bark, and it can be used to produce new industrially potential products such as binders for coatings and composite materials, biodegradable lubricants, and surface-active agents.
Bark from other tree species (Pinus, Picea, Populus, Larix), their properties, and possible uses will also be researched in this project, along with humic substances from peat. Our work includes innovative natural products chemistry, extraction and process technology; as well as basic research on mode of action and structure-function relationships within the application areas (e.g., in plant protection products: insect pest antifdeedants, antifungal and antibacterial products; in pharmaceutical/medical applications, cosmetics, and bioremediation).
We plan to ensure that promising results from this project will have a higher than the average probability of becoming products of significant importance to the forest, farming, medical and pharmaceutical sectors, with major positive spin-off impacts to human health and the environment.