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Aalto plans fibre spin-off company

Pilot line for Ioncell sustainable fibre process now in place.

13th December 2021

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Aalto, Finland

Clothing/​Footwear, Sustainable

A pilot production line for the method of turning wood-based materials and textile waste into ecological, high-quality fibres called Ioncell is now in place at the University of Aalto in Finland.

“The continuous process is completely different from producing fibres in small batches,” said Professor Herbert Sixta, who led the development of the Ioncell process. “We have improved our recycling methods to achieve an almost 100% recovery rate for the cellulose solvent used in the process in the laboratory, which we will also gradually achieve in the pilot plant. At the same time, solvent recovery will be integrated into the continuous fibre process to achieve a closed-loop operation.”

Researcher Marja Rissanen has dyed a batch of fibres produced from birch pulp on the pilot line with natural indigo – a blue biodye produced by the company Natural Indigo from a flowering plant called woad grown in Nivala, Finland. After dyeing, the fibre was spun into yarn and tested for durability and its tensile strength has proved to be higher than that of cotton or viscose.

Researchers Kasia Gorniak and Elina Onkinen knitted the yarn into a fabric for a sportswear top design.

“Having worked with this yarn first-hand, I am excited at the prospect of it being applied more widely and commercially in the future,” said Gorniak. “It’s both soft and durable.”

The process of establishing a company to commercialise the  Ioncell method is reported to be well underway, and the recruitment of a managing director is at its final stages. The company will start operations in early 2022.

“Consumers and investors now have a keen interest in sustainable textiles, which makes this an ideal time to establish a spin-off company,” said Janne Laine, vice president for innovation at Aalto University. “By setting up Ioncell, we are responding to consumer expectations in the most efficient way possible.

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