New circular economy professorship by University of Jyväskylä and Vapo

Varsha Srivastava
Varsha Srivastava

New professor Varsha Srivastava develops high value-added products from organic wetland biomass to boost the circular economy of chemistry. New Associate Professor Varsha Srivastava focuses on analytics and extraction of organic compounds from biomass, in particular organic wetland biomass. She aims to refine new types of products for the international market that can promote air and water purification, healthy living environments and enhance food production. The professorship is in the Department of Chemistry at the Faculty of Mathematics and Science and it is co-funded by Vapo Oy.

The studies of Professor Srivastava are a part of the circular economy research of chemistry department and represent the focus area of resource wisdom of natural resources, one of the core areas of the research at the Faculty. The professorship is co-funded by Vapo Oy, that is financing the first three years of the professorship.

“Professor Varsha Srivastava has internationally high level of expertise in analytical chemistry and circular economics in chemistry. A new research team will be set up for research into wetland biomass with the aim of producing a high level of scientific research, while also meeting the product development needs of the industry”, says Dean Mikko Mönkkönen.

The Refinery -project will accelerate the development of high value-added products from organic wetland biomass.

”Global challenges are driving as to reduce our dependence on energy peat and to find new means and products for purification of air and water, promoting healthy living environments and efficient food production. In order to respond to challenges we are investigating humic acids to be used as biostimulants in horticulture and agriculture, lipids for waxes and resins and valuable compounds of Sphagnum moss. We are utilizing organic wetland biomass selectively and sustainably by increasing the refinery rate“, says Mia Suominen, Director of the Vapo Ventures business area.

Vapo is building an activated carbon production unit to Ilomantsi, a new innovation for air and water purification. Activated carbon is used to filter the water we drink and the air we breathe. Activated carbon is produced from biomasses available in Finland.

Funders of professorship welcome also new ideas

Varsha Srivastava is a Doctor of Chemistry. She moved to Jyväskylä from Mikkeli, where she had been working as a researcher on an Academy of Finland’ s project and many other projects at the Lappeenranta University of Technology Campus LUT Mikkeli since 2014. Numerous other top international scientists were widely interested in the professorship, in total 33 people applied for the position.

Coming from India, Srivastava has studied at the Indian Institute of Technology (B.H.U) at Varanasi.

“I have been involved in the research area of resource recovery from solid and liquid waste streams for 12 years. During my research career, I have worked on the development of efficient separation techniques for resource recovery. The research experience gathered in past along with the skills developed in different analytical tools and development of methods for chemical separation from different waste streams will be very helpful in boosting of peat biomass research and advancement of existing technologies for chemical separation”, says Varsha Srivastava.

The University of Jyväskylä and Vapo Oy are expecting the boost for product development. We need in-depth expertise to understand better attributes and functionalities of the new products.

“A whole new set of ideas are also welcome, because we have only just scratched the surface of the possibilities of wetland masses,” says Mia Suominen.

Vapo has started a new EUR 5 million multi-year Refinery R&D programme, which has been granted significant financial support by Business Finland.

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