New Finnish fibre technologies promoting the bio- and circular economy won the CO2 reduction category of the European Commission's Regiostars Awards competition on 9 October 2018. VTT and Aalto University's TeKiDe project triumphed due to its innovative nature.
Through new techniques, wood fibres and discarded cotton fabrics can be used to produce viscous fibres without using chemicals that burden the environment. VTT and Aalto University have been developing fibre technologies towards industrial-scale production through the TeKiDe (Demonstration Platform for Textile Fibre Recycling) project, supported by the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council.
The carbamate, BioCelSol and Ioncell-F technologies developed through the project are more environmentally friendly and safer than the viscose production method based on carbon disulphide. The first task was to build and commission a research environment suitable for the development of wet fibre spinning processes that produce fibre at a rate of 60 kg per day in VTT's Bioruukki facility in Espoo.
The project began in the autumn of 2016 and will end in the coming months. It is being funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the City of Espoo, VTT and Aalto University. The Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council is funding the project.
"TeKiDe has created an internationally significant innovation platform. It is particularly important that the demonstration environment is open and allows companies to experiment and test their new ideas. I hope that a dynamic ecosystem will emerge around the project, which will serve as a growth engine in the circular economy throughout Finland, as well as in the Uusimaa region," says Programme Director Tiina Huotari of the Uusimaa Regional Council, which is funding the project.
Carbamate technology is approaching the commercialisation phase
VTT's TeKiDe project has involved the use of carbamate technology for the transformation of wood-based- dissolving pulp and discarded cotton textiles, such as used sheets and towels, into viscose-type fibre as a raw material for textile products. The method can be used to recycle low-quality, discarded cotton into new fibres. Recycling can be repeated up to 6-7 times without affecting quality. Other cellulose based materials, such as waste paper and cardboard, can also be used as a raw material.
The ecologically sustainable production of cotton fibres from waste textiles may revolutionise the textile industry. Through its research, VTT aims to promote the circular economy, accelerate the commercialisation of technology and reduce the use of oil-based microplastics. Fabric made from carbamate-fibre was first seen on Finnish MEP, Sirpa Pietikäinen, at the reception held in the Presidential Palace in December.
Suominen Oy has already tested the suitability of fibres, made from dissolving pulp at Bioruukki, for non-woven products. Carbamate products will be on the shop shelves in a few years time, since the Finnish startup, Infinited Fiber Company, has begun to commercialise production of the fibre and the construction of the first plant is under planning.
Ioncell-F and BioCelSol technologies
As its contribution to the project, Aalto University developed the scale-up of the Ioncell-F process. Based on the direct dissolution of cellulose, the technology has been developed through collaboration between Aalto University and the University of Helsinki. Ionic liquid, developed at the University of Helsinki, is used as a solvent in the process. In the process, fibre is produced by means of dry-jet wet spinning, which gives the fibres outstanding strength. Aalto University has designed a piloting environment for the TeKiDe project, in which around 10kg of textile fibre can be produced per day. Design of an Ioncell-F pilot is now underway.
VTT will demonstrate the BioCelSol technology in Bioruukki towards the end of the project. Through BioCelSol technology, the dissolution of cellulose is enhanced by means of mechanical and enzymatic treatments before dissolution and spinning.
EU focused on the development of textile fibre recycling
The consumption of textile fibres has grown significantly during the last decade: from 50 million to over 70 million tonnes (Floe, 2011). There is an urgent need to recycle textile fibres due to a European Union directive banning the dumping of textile waste. In addition, from 2025 member countries must arrange separate collection for textile waste.
The Regiostars Awards is an annual competition arranged by the European Commission to reward the projects which best promote regional cohesion. One of the aims is to highlight the most innovative projects in the regions. There were 102 entries for this year's competition, 21 of which were selected for the final round. The Regiostars Prize for 2018 is being awarded to the best cohesion policy projects in five competition categories: Supporting a smart industrial transition; Achieving sustainability through low carbon emissions; Creating better access to public services; Tackling migration challenges and Investing in cultural heritage.
RegioStars Awards: http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/en/regio-stars-awards/#1