Photo: Sini Pennanen

Jyri-Pekka Mikkola: An alternative to the waste of natural resources

Jyri-Pekka Mikkola studies ionic liquids that help in reducing waste and production costs in many sectors. There are major breakthroughs to be expected, particularly in the production of chemicals and energy.

Jyri-Pekka Mikkola, Professor at Åbo Akademi and Umeå University, is one of the pioneers in the research of so-called ionic liquids. Mikkola, who studied Chemical Engineering at Åbo Akademi and wrote his dissertation on the production process of xylitol, has been focusing on this globally hot topic since 2004.

‘The potential applications of ionic liquids are almost limitless. They can help in reducing production costs and waste in a significant number of industries,’ Mikkola says.

Ionic liquids are salt-like compounds with unique properties. They can, for example, stay in liquid form even in extremely cold or hot temperatures.

The majority of ionic liquids are recyclable. In addition, they are excellent solvents, helping many chemical reactions to outperform traditional synthesis routes.

‘Selected ionic liquids can dissolve materials that are usually poorly soluble, such as cellulose and even wood.’

Ionic liquids can also be used as catalysts in chemical reactions, in CO2 recovery and the production of chemicals. They can participate in purifying natural gas or biogas and refining metals and oil.

‘The use of ionic liquids is spreading rapidly in a variety of industries. Actually, we are not even aware of all applications, because companies want to keep them as trade secrets.’

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Text: Matti Remes