Future innovations in circular economy come from interdisciplinary researchTUT’s newly-appointed Assistant Professor in Bio and Circular Economy, Aino-Maija Lakaniemi, studies how microbes could be utilized in the processing of waste and side streams. The goal is to improve sustainability and recycling rates – and to spread enthusiasm across disciplinary boundaries.
Following a long career at the Tampere University of Technology, Aino-Maija Lakaniemi started her work in the position of Assistant Professor (tenure track) in Bio and Circular Economy at the Laboratory of Chemistry and Bioengineering in December. She studies and develops bioprocesses that utilize natural microbes and ways they could be used in the treatment of gaseous, liquid, and solid waste and side streams. With these bioprocesses, carbon, nutrients, and metals that nowadays end up in waste could be utilized in a sustainable and efficient way. Depending on the process, the products could be energy and fuels, carbon-based raw materials for the chemical industry, clean water, recovered metals, or soil amendments.
“Research and development of new processes is always exciting, but even many basic microbiological phenomena are extremely interesting. After all, it is amazing that you can find microbes in nature that can produce the energy they need for growth by degrading ores, while solubilizing valuable metal at the same time. Other microbes can grow by utilizing sunlight, carbon dioxide from flue gases, and nutrients from waste waters, while producing raw materials for energy production,” Lakaniemi says.
“In the coming years, I will be concentrating especially on the biological recovery of metals from waste and side streams. The main goal is to improve the utilization of municipal and industrial waste streams in eco-friendly and cost-effective ways, working together with companies and research organizations both from Finland and abroad.”
Aino-Maija Lakaniemi says she is the type of person who gets easily very enthusiastic about new things, and she hopes she can spread her enthusiasm across disciplinary boundaries.
“I believe that the most important future innovations in bio and circular economy will come out of interdisciplinary collaboration networks. I want to develop the research field even further into that direction,” Lakaniemi says.
Aino-Maija Lakaniemi (born 1983, Lapua)
- Dtech, TUT 2012
- MSc, TUT 2007
Key work history:
- Postdoctoral researcher, Laboratory of Chemistry and Bioengineering, TUT 2012–2016
- Researcher, TUT 2011–2012
- Teaching associate, TUT 2011
- Researcher, TUT 2007–2011
- Visiting researcher, School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, UK 2009
- Research assistant and trainee, TUT 2005–2007
Hobbies: floorball, gym, outdoor sports, reading, handicrafts, and occasionally photography. “I’m also an extremely enthusiastic armchair athlete,” Lakaniemi says.
Learning more about uranium recovery
Aino-Maija Lakaniemi has a wealth of experience on many different fields of environmental biotechnology and bioprocess engineering. She is familiar with the cultivation of microalgae for energy and fuel production, the production of hydrogen through dark fermentation, sulfate reduction in mine water treatment, and bioleaching and bio-oxidation for metal recovery, just to name a few. Later this year, Lakaniemi is heading for Perth, Australia, where she will do a ten-month researcher exchange at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).
“CSIRO is a state-owned multi-field research organization that aims to improve the lives of people and industry with innovations that tackle real-life challenges. For instance, CSIRO is doing significant work in the fields of environmental research and geology. There I will be able to learn more about the biological recovery of metals and, among other things, to develop new processes for removal of uranium from process and waste waters,” Lakaniemi predicts.
In addition to conducting her own research, as Assistant Professor her responsibilities include developing new research openings, preparing funding applications, and acting as instructor for thesis and dissertation writers.
“TUT is a dynamic organization where every day is different. The Laboratory of Chemistry and Bioengineering is a very multinational working environment. Every day I get to speak English and be in contact with our collaboration partners from all over the world. Over half of the doctoral students that I’m instructing at the moment have been born outside of Finland.”
Photo: Mika Kanerva