Free for publication 27.1.2022
The Finnish startup - Nordic Bioproducts Group - has successfully spun a new plant-based textile fibre.
The company is a spin-off from Aalto University in Finland and the proprietor of the patented AaltoCell™ technology. The company has created a new plant-based textile fibre - Norratex, which is manufactured without any toxic chemicals or expensive solvents.
"Succeeding so soon came as a big surprise to our entire team.”
R&D Director, Nordic Bioproducts, Ville Nyman.
At the press conference Nordic Bioproducts is also announcing the launch of collaboration with CMPC Ventures, the Corporate Venture arm of CMPC S.A, one of the largest producers of pulp in the world.
”We are very excited about this new collaboration. For CMPC, this represents a significant step toward establishing a leading role in the development of the future of biobased industries with global impact.”Bernardita Araya, Manager CMPC Ventures
Finns at the forefront of the industry
The demand for sustainable and responsible textile fibres is constantly growing. Current methods have a detrimental impact on the environment. Resource-intensive cotton production is already at an extreme, and polyester, in turn, is a major source of microplastic emissions. And, the production of wood-based viscose fibre requires dissolution with toxic carbon disulfide. New and sustainable alternatives from wood and plant-based feedstock are required to address the sustainability challenges of the textile industry. The market for sustainable man-made cellulosic fibres is excpected to grow above 10% within the next decade. Competition in the field of new textile fibres is accelerating and the first players in the industry are already commercializing their products and approaching industrial-scale production. Many of these innovations are Finnish, such as Aalto University's Ioncell fibre, Metsä Spring Oy's Kuura fibre, Spinnova Oy's fibre and Infinited Fibre Company’s Infinna fibre.
The Norratex process
In the Nordic Bioproducts' method, the cellulose is first hydrolyzed in an environmentally friendly and cost-effective manner, after which the fibre is further processed into a viscose-like textile fibre. The inventor of the AaltoCell ™ method, Professor Olli Dahl at Aalto University, was convinced from an early on that the method, developed by Nordic Bioproducts, could be applied in the production of plant-based textile fibres.
“It’s great to see when your own ideas lead to new products by the skillful team of engineers in a young company. We are embarking on a new era in developing novel biobased products.”
Olli Dahl , Professor, Aalto University
In 2020, Nordic Bioproducts began to develop a cost-effective and scalable textile fibre manufacturing process in collaboration with the University of Tampere, based on Professor Dahl’s idea. Nordic Bioproducts’ team of chemical and fibre processing engineers were able to find just the right parameters for the dissolution that enables wet spinning of the cellulose dope. The Norratex method can utilize a wide variety of raw material sources. Fibres can be made from forest industry by-products, textile waste and ordinary paper pulp. This is a significant advantage over traditional viscose, which is made from dissolving pulp and the cost can be up to 30 % higher than paper pulp.
The R&D efforts behind Norratex
The first wet spinning experiments with NBG’s cellulose dissolution method were performed in June 2021. Only six months later, in November 2021, yarn was already made from the new Norratex textile fibre at the University of Tampere. Several samples of the yarn were knitted at the Department of Design at Aalto University. Maija Järventausta, a researcher who carried out wet spinning and yarn production in Tampere, describes the success:
“The seventh spinning experiment really surprised me! The dope was excellent and it did not clog the spinneret during wet spinning. At that moment, I suggested that we should try making yarn for the first time. In the next step, the carding was successful, the fibre withstood opening, curled beautifully and no pilling was formed. Fibre-to-fibre friction was optimal. I would never have believed that in such a short period of product development, one could succeed in a functional end product. It was great to see that the yarn was strong enough not to break in the knitting process. The yarn also has a beautiful subtle gloss, a feature that lasted from wet spinning to the dry yarn.” Maija Järventausta, University of Tampere
Several partners are involved in the development and commercialization of the new fibre, the most important of which is CMPC Ventures, the Corporate Investment arm of CMPC S.A. Olli Kähkönen, co-founder and Innovation Director at Nordic Bioproducts, emphasizes the scale of the project:
“Collaboration patterns are central to the success of the project. We are partnering with CMPC to begin an intensive product development period of approximately one year. After that, if everything goes as planned, we will start producing Norratex textile fibre on a pilot scale.”
The method has also been explored for textile recycling
The majority of fast fashion uses fibre blends containing both natural and plastic fibres. The recycling of these mixed material textiles is a major challenge due to the lack of efficient and sustainable separation methods. The AaltoCell™ technology offers one potential way to tackle this problem. The method has been tested on a laboratory scale where the natural fibres are neatly separated from the plastics into clean fractions, allowing the fractions to be utilized separately. Now we are looking for partners to develop novel low carbon footprint applications for both material streams to support circular economy innovations.
Watch the press conference recordings:
Olli Kähkönen, Nordic Bioproducts Group
and Bernardita Araya Kleinstauber, CMPC Ventures
Ville Nyman, Head of R&D Nordic Bioproducts group
The Journey of Norratex (edited version)
Questions & Answers with Olli Kähkönen and Bernardino Araya Kleinstauber
Photos from the press conference:
Nordic Bioproducts Group is a Finnish start-up developing new biomaterials founded in 2019, which employs 16 product development engineers, researchers, commercial and design professionals in Espoo. In 2020, Aalto University and the Nordic Bioproducts Group agreed on a technology transfer agreement, and the global IP rights for AaltoCell ™ technology were transferred to Nordic Bioproducts. The AaltoCell ™ method, developed by Professor Olli Dahl and his research group, also enables an inexpensive and environmentally friendly way to produce traditional microcrystalline cellulose, or MCC. Nordic Bioproducts Oy's personnel have the enthusiasm, know-how and goal to change the world in a more sustainable direction with the help of new cellulose-based innovations.
CMPC is a sustainable company that produces solid wood products, pulp, paper, tissue and packaging products from certified and renewable forests. Founded in 1920 in Chile, is the 3rd global market pulp producer, with operations in 46 productive facilities, across 8 Latin American countries and global sales to more than 45 countries. CMPC Ventures is the Corporate Venture arm of CMPC, articulating CMPC’s ecosystem to support the companies in the portfolio. It is a Venture Catalyst, not a Venture Capitalist, catalysing innovation and growth for both the startups and CMPC.
For more infomation:
Olli Kähkönen Nordic Bioproducts +358 50 5113970, firstname.lastname@example.org