Sustainable bio-based materials

Korvaa headphones with leather made from yeast and fungal mycelium

Companies are interested in changing their current raw materials into more sustainable ones originating from or inspired by nature. This generates new unpredictable business opportunities, based on sustainable raw materials, production and products. 

Key facts

Sustainable bio-based materials are inspired by nature and comply with nature’s circular principles generating no waste.

Experts at VTT have extensive knowledge of nature-based solutions and are able to develop functional, high value-added products based on them.

There are opportunities for businesses to change their current raw materials into bio-based ones as well as generate new business opportunities.

Can you imagine optical fibres made of cellulose? Did you know that spider silk mimicking proteins can be produced in bioreactors? Are you aware that nanocellulose-based membranes can selectively capture microplastics and metals from contaminated waters?  

Today the world needs new sustainable solutions to replace the fossil-based materials and ensure healthy solutions for the planet and its people. Sustainable bio-based materials are inspired by nature and adhere to nature’s circular principles: reusing, recycling, and biodegradation without waste generation.  

Finland’s large resource of sustainably managed forests are valuable to creating sustainable bio-based solutions. The materials can be designed in a way that they do not contribute to the environmental plastic problem, such as the release of microplastics.  

VTT as the designer of future sustainable materials

At VTT we have extensive knowledge of nature-based solutions to develop functional, high value-added products. We can mimic the best qualities of nature: the strength of cellulose fibrils in wood or the toughness of spider silk. The renewable lignocellulosic materials offer possibilities, which are both sustainable and intelligent.  

We process natural biomass by mechanical, chemical and enzymatic means depending on the application requirements. For process optimisation and a structural characterisation, we use sophisticated analysis tools. Understanding the structure-property relationship as well as water-fibre interactions is crucial in biodesigning the future sustainable materials. 

From understanding the phenomena to up-scaling the production

A challenge with bio-based materials is the transfer of a material from the biological water-based system to industrial manufacturing. At VTT, we will start with understanding the basics of molecular interactions of these natural components for example with water. Before production, the materials can be modelled with VTT ProperTune® for a model driven design. The material assembly can then be tested in lab-scale before up-scaling, eventually to pilot scale.  

As an example, spider-silk inspired proteins can be used as a toughening matrix in composite fibres. VTT is utilising proprietary biotechnology for developing scalable protein production and tackle current bottlenecks in the manufacturing of protein based materials. 

We can mimic the best qualities of nature: the strength of cellulose fibrils in wood or the toughness of spider silk. 

Our solutions for clean water and air include for example cellulose-based membranes to capture microplastics and metals and cellulosic yarns to capture hormones from waste waters. 

Collaboration with VTT provides opportunities for businesses to change their current raw materials into more sustainable ones originating from or inspired by nature. It will also generate new business opportunities beyond the obvious, which will be based on sustainable production and products. For its partners, VTT offers state-of-the-art research facilities and infrastructure to support the research, as well as its global scientific and industrial connections in the area of sustainable bio-based materials. 

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