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From cellulose to textile fiber

Nov. 27, 2013 — Aalto University has developed an internationally significant new process for working wood cellulose into a textile fiber. New solutions for using fiber-based materials in textile processes attract global interest.

"Cotton production cannot be increased in the future because it requires water and suitable conditions for cultivation. On the other hand, viscose production is problematic because highly toxic chemicals are required for its production," says Aalto University Professor Herbert Sixta.

Responding to market needs

The process created in the research program and the resulting textile fiber will open up new markets for the Finnish forest and garment industries. Finnish cellulose mills provide the new Ioncell fiber with high-quality raw material.

"We are still studying the properties of cellulose in order to begin pilot projects that utilize the new process. The projects will be carried out in cooperation with companies. There is a growing market for environmentally friendly textile fiber," Aalto University researcher Michael Hummel says.

With the new manufacturing process cellulose can be made into a high quality textile fiber in a more environmentally friendly way than with traditional viscose production methods. The textile fiber is produced using a processing method based on ionic solvents developed at the research group of Professor Ilkka Kilpeläinen, University of Helsinki. It is clearly stronger than viscous.

"Our research has succeeded in improving current production processes. We have developed an environmentally friendly product with outstanding properties. The Ioncell fiber is ecological and an excellent alternative to cotton and viscose," says Hummel.

The research was carried out as part of the Finnish Bioeconomy Cluster FIBIC's FuBio Cellulose research program.

Cooperation across industry sectors

The new textile fiber developed at Aalto University can be processed into a high-quality end product. A textile sample was produced from the cellulose fiber in collaboration with Aalto University's Department of Design.

"I designed and produced a scarf which showcases the material. The new material has an excellent capacity for reproducing shades and it is surprisingly easy to work with," says Marjaana Tanttu, who is studying in the Master's Degree Program in Textile Art and Design.

Aalto University is a multidisciplinary science and art community in technical sciences, economics and industrial arts. The cooperation for the FuBio Cellulose program is a good example of multidisciplinary activities carried out at the university.

"New opportunities and products require open collaboration across organizational and national boundaries," says Professor Sixta.

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