ForTec research is organized along four areas:
1. Wood-based circular economy
Bridging knowledge and innovation to wood chain is important to maximize the wood as raw material and the creation of new products with high add-value take in consideration the circular economic context. Research activities on anatomy, variability of structures and biometric composition on wood and non-wood, bark, leaves and roots to support identification in eco-physical studies as indicators of species adaptation) or potential uses as feedstock for different industries. The general aim is to contribute to increasing forest sustainability and diversity by the valorisation of Mediterranean forestry ensuring sustainable wood production, forest fire prevention and species conservation.
Application of spectroscopy (NIR) to assess the chemical composition (extractive and lignin content) to develop PLS-R models will be used in breeding programs for enhanced wood quality. Another research area associated with this line is the dendrochronology studies in line with edaphoclimatic changes and dating archaeological and art objects (paintings, musical instruments, sculptures and archaeological wood material). The absence of dendroarchaeological studies in Portugal justifies the deepening of knowledge in this area, promoting the development of multidisciplinary studies, with a special focus on anatomical studies of wood and art history. Some of these works are being developed in partnership with other CEF research groups.
2. The cork value chain
Knowledge-based improvement on the cork sources with new cork-containing barks rich in cork (e.g. Q. cerris, Pseudotsuga menziesii, Betula pendula) in view of a more global cork-based chain.
Specific projects include: i) studies on cork formation and cell-wall assembly, matrix dissembling for chemical fractionation; ii)cork growth, plank thickness and biotic agents attacks in a climate change context for integrated management; iii) forecast of cork quality in terms of tissue homogeneity along successive debarking; iv) variability of cork phenotypes related to cork quality as determined by genetic and epigenetic mechanisms (in collaboration with LEAF Research Centre); v) in-situ cork suberin macromolecular structure, as the main polymeric component of cork cell walls; vi) cork suberin as a source for high-value bio-based chemicals, namely polyfunctional long-chain fatty acids (in collaboration with industrial partners); vii) linking cork structure and chemistry to product performance under a global change context.
3. Biorefineries, bioenergy and green chemistry
Research activities in the bioenergy domain, particularly chemical pre-treatments of biomass and conversion of lignocellulosic hydrolysates (added-value products, liquid biofuels) aiming an integrated upgrade in the biorefineries framework.
Research activities such as applying different methodologies (pre-treatments and component fractioning) for the deconstruction of lignocellulosic materials (e.g. barks, foliage, agricultural and forest residues) and using industrial side-streams(extractives and lignin) in the biorefinery context, to find new add-value products to be used as fuel, chemicals or bioactive components (pharmacological and nutraceuticals activities) will be a main focus of this line. The waste zero philosophy, the circular economy and the life cycle studies are also considered. This multidisciplinary approach addresses the chain of sustainability in a forest-stakeholder-consumer perspective, comprising product characterization, development of new processes and products innovation from a wide range of natural resources.