Fiber Watch: Finland’s Forests Providing Eco-Friendly Viscose

Aalto University viscose

Could textiles from trees replace our toxic and  oil-based ones? 

Finland, the Scandinavian country known as the land of the lakes, northern lights and endless forests, is bridging  a gap between its natural resources and the sustainable textile sector. Researchers at the country’s top university have created an environmentally friendly viscose manufacturing process that involves the use of native wood pulp to create cellulose based ‘ec0-viscose’. This new discovery is a breakthrough for the sustainable textile industry, as this versatile eco-viscose could replace the need for textiles that are harming the Earth.

Traditionally, viscose is produced with the use of highly toxic chemicals such as caustic soda and carbon disulphide, both of which are corrosive compounds. These chemicals are used to break down the cellulose fibers in wood pulp so that they can be spun into threads, and woven into cloths and materials for uses ranging from apparel to reinforcing high speed tires.

Finland’s alternative method for viscose production involves the use of non-toxic ionic solvents, resulting in a fabric that is actually stronger than conventional viscose.  Aalto University in Helsinki played the key role in developing this improved process for viscose manufacturing, with the aim of creating a sustainable, global  market for Finnish eco-textiles. A textile sample made from the cellulose fiber was designed by Aalto University Textile Arts student Marjaana Tanttu, who remarked that “the new material has an excellent capacity for reproducing shades and it’s surprisingly easy to work with”.

Currently dubbed the Ioncell fiber, the versatile qualities of this eco-viscose have the potential to replace the current need for water and pesticide ridden cotton, toxically produced cellulose textiles and oil-based polyester. Similar to Lenzing’s Tencel fabric, this new material is applicable to a wider range of industries and requires less water for manufacturing.

Although plans for large-scale production of the fiber are still in their research phase, the team behind the Ioncell fiber is positive that the material will open up a great, green and sustainable door for textile and fiber industries. In the spirit of sharing, the Finnish researchers and scientists are completely open to international collaboration and opportunities in order to create sustainable textile and fiber solutions for the whole world.

Image: Aalto

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