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Cellulose becomes the supermaterial of the future

The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Aalto University, Tampere University of Technology (TUT) and the University of Vaasa have received EUR 4.9 million from the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation Tekes for the development of new biomaterial applications.

The project titled ‘Design Driven Value Chains in the World of Cellulose (DWoC) 2.0’ is coordinated by VTT.

The DWoC project is seeking to identify new design-driven applications for cellulose, develop related technology and explore new ways to create value in cellulose-based ecosystems. These new materials and innovations can replace fossil-based raw materials in textile products, interior decoration elements and car interior materials.

“The Government Programme emphasises the importance of bioeconomy for Finland's future and economic renewal. Renewal necessitates giant research-driven leaps, risk taking and national investments in research and innovation funding. Wood – the "green gold" of Finland – is a renewable raw material, and wood cellulose can be converted into a golden opportunity, once we find new high added value applications alongside the traditional paper and pulp industry,” says Project Coordinator Johanna Buchert, Vice President, Research, VTT.

Broad cooperation is required to promote bioeconomy and sustainable development. During the first phase of the DWoC project, various ways to successfully combine design and materials research were tested. This gave rise both to preliminary product concepts and ideas and to promising technology innovations. During the course of the project, the researchers developed, for example, yarn made directly from pulp fibre suspension. Manufacturing was started by Spinnova Oy at the beginning of 2015.

The project has entered its second phase, in which textile applications, such as 3D printing of cellulose, are being developed and the application of cellulose-based materials in the built environment is being studied. In addition to new materials and products, new types of textile manufacturing equipment and processes are being developed. Tekes's funding will enable various stakeholders to collaborate, experiment and seek innovations to create new business ideas and opportunities.

The future commercialisation of new products and concepts is an important objective. The project will investigate the formation of a value producing network of enterprises around cellulose-based material, including, among others, design-sector companies.

The DWoC project aims to share information about the potential of cellulose materials and strengthen the broad-based collaboration network both in Finland and abroad. In order to achieve the national objectives, the participation of multiple stakeholders is needed, including financiers, established and new companies, research institutions, and universities. Finland has excellent potential to become one of the superpowers in the generation of new cellulose industry in the future.

The DWoC project runs from 31 March 2015 to 1 April 2018.

Brochure on the results of the project’s first phase: DWoC1_final_presentation.pdf

Further information:

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Vice President, Research, Johanna Buchert, Coordinator of the DWoC project, tel. 050 5116603, johanna.buchert@vtt.fi

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Research Professor Ali Harlin, tel. 040 5332179, ali.harlin@vtt.fi 

Aalto University, Designer in Residence Pirjo Kääriäinen, tel. (09) 47001, pirjo.kaariainen@aalto.fi

Aalto University, Professor Ainomaija Haarla, tel. 050 344 1693, ainomaija.haarla@aalto.fi

University of Vaasa, Director Henri Hakala, tel. 029 449 8440, henri.hakala@uva.fi

Tampere University of Technology, Professor Jyrki Vuorinen, tel. 040 849 0110, jyrki.vuorinen@tut.fi

News submitted by: Anna Naukkarinen
Keywords: science and research, services and collaboration