This wood-based textile fibre is made without chemical solvents
Finnish fibre technology company Spinnova developed a method to convert wood pulp directly into textile fibre, without the need for chemical solvents.
The semisynthetic fabric rayon and specific types such as viscose, modal, and lyocell are made from regenerated cellulose fibres. However, to make these fabrics, the wood fibres have to be chemically converted using a solvent, which are highly toxic, polluting water and workers.
Spinnova developed a patented technology that allows wood pulp to be spun into textile fibre without chemical processing, putting less strain on the environment. The new fibre uses little water, up to 99 per cent less than cotton, the most popular natural fabric.
The idea for the fibre came in 2009, when researcher and cellulose expert Juha Salmela from the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) was pointed to the similarities between nanocellulose and a spider web’s protein, sprouting the idea to spin wood fibre into textile fibre.
On their website, Spinnova states, “The growing demand of fibre and the declining availability of cotton create the so-called cellulose gap. It means that about one third of textile fibres used in 2030 would need to be cellulosic.”
The company uses microfibrillated cellulose, a paste-like material consisting of tiny fibres made of FSC certified wood. To make the textile fibre, the finely ground pulp flows to a nozzle, where the fibres rotate and align with the flow, creating a strong, elastic fibre network. The fibre is spun and dried, turning into a fluffy but firm wool-like material. The staple fibre that is ready to be dyed or spun into yarn and to use for textile production. The only by-product they produce is evaporated water, which is lead back into the process.
A large part of recycled clothing is chopped up and turned into insulation material, rather than new clothing. Because the Spinnova process uses tiny fibres, the resulting fabric can easily be recycled into new textile.
Spinnova uses at the moment only wood pulp from sustainably managed forests, but they believe they can use any type of cellulose to make their fibre. They are gradually looking into using agricultural and bio waste-based cellulose.
Currently, Spinnova is on the verge of commercialisation and will be scaled up from a pilot scale to an industrial scale this year.