Bacterial Bandages, Natural Dyes and Recycled Fibres: Aalto Brings Materials Revolution to Slush

New materials play an important role in sustainable development and combatting climate change. New uses for old materials can also be a major industrial opportunity: for example, the value of biomass from forests in Finland can be doubled if used for manufacturing products of higher added value.

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Ioncell. Photo: Aalto University / Aleksi Poutanen

Finland's Aalto University will introduce ten fascinating projects in materials research at Slush starting today in Helsinki. The projects presented include long-term novel research and projects nearing commercialisation.

The use of biomass is a unifying factor for many projects. Biomaterials research has long been one of the strengths of Aalto University, and the FinnCERES innovation ecosystem accelerates research even further. The objective of FinnCERES, launched with partner VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, is to generate 300 inventions in the bioeconomy sector, 80 new products or services, and 8 startups in the next eight years.

Calculations by VTT show that the value of forest and agricultural biomass in Finland can be doubled by 2050 if it is used to manufacture products of high added value. For example, the global demand for textile fibres is growing at an annual rate of 3%, and companies are fervently looking for new, ecological alternatives for cotton and polyester.

At the Slush event, Aalto researchers are presenting a technology called Ioncell, which can be used for manufacturing high-quality textile fibres from wood as well as recycled materials. Aalto’s stand will also introduce environmentally friendly coatings made from lignin, which is a by-product of pulp and paper production. These lignin coatings make metals a hundred times more resistant to rust.

3D-printed Bone Implants

Demand for solar energy is growing fast, spurring the development of a wide range of new materials. Many of these new materials are, however, either rare and expensive or harmful to the environment, restricting their use on a larger scale. Researchers at Aalto have succeeded in replacing the platinum used in solar cells with charred biomass produced from industrial side streams.

- The research continues: in addition to wood, could other organic waste, such as fish scales, be used in manufacturing efficient cells? the University speculates in a statement.

Bacteria are some of the world's most durable organisms, and they can be harnessed to produce a variety of materials. One such material is bacterial cellulose: resistant to heat and chemicals, it is extremely durable. Bacterial cellulose is not harmful for living tissues, which makes it a promising material for various medical applications, such as wound-care products or for growing implants.

At Aalto’s stand Slush visitors can also learn about natural dyes, 3D printed bone implants, the idea of a computer mimicking the human brain, and much more. 

Nina Garlo-Melkas

R&D | 4.12.2018

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