The production of cotton, the cellulose fiber used mainly in textiles, is not expected to keep pace with demand. Therefore, cellulose man-made fibers are an excellent complement to cotton, as these fibers have similar properties.
The main manufacturing processes for man-made cellulose textile fibers are the viscose process, in which cellulose is dissolved with alkali and carbon disulfide, and the Lyocell process, in which N-methylmorpholine-N-oxide (NMMO) is used to dissolve cellulose. However, the viscose process has become environmentally controversial due to the use of toxic carbon disulfide as the main reagent. The Lyocell process, on the other hand, is hampered by the instability of NMMO.
These challenges have led to extensive research into various cellulosic solvent systems to produce regenerated cellulosic fibers. Ionic liquids have attracted interest as green alternatives to organic solvents in various processes. Ionic liquids are salts that can be melted below 100 oC and have unique properties such as low vapor pressure, high thermal stability and high solubility of various organic and inorganic substances.
Technically high-quality cellulose fibers made from wood have been developed by two research groups in Finland, at the University of Helsinki and Aalto University. This concept developed the design and use of new superbasic ionic liquids for the processing of wood pulp into high performance textile fibers and is currently being tested for scale-up. A working group led by Professor Kilpeläinen from the University of Helsinki developed superbasic ionic liquid solvents for dissolving wood biomass, e.g. bleached or unbleached pulp or recycled cellulose. Professor Sixta and his team from Aalto University developed an ionic liquid-based fiber shaping process based on dry jet wet spinning.
“This unique collaboration has led to a new sustainable concept for the production of textile fiber from wood. Innovation is expected to bring a wide range of new products and business opportunities to the forest industry”, says Johanna BuchertChairman of the selection committee for the Marcus Wallenberg Award.
The most important facts about the award recipients
Professor Ilkka Kilpeläinen was born in 1963 in Finland. He received his doctorate in organic chemistry in 1993 from the University of Helsinki. In 1995, he was appointed as a docent of organic chemistry at the University of Helsinki and in 2003 as a structural chemistry graduate at the University of Oulu. Kilpeläinen was professor of chemistry at the University of Oulu in 2001-2003. Since 2003, he has been a professor of organic chemistry at the University of Helsinki. Kilpeläinen is also the chairman of the board at Liuotin Group Oy, a development spin-off that focuses on the scale of production of ionic liquids.
Professor Herbert Sixta was born in 1954 in Austria. He graduated with a doctorate in physical chemistry from the University of Innsbruck in 1982 and a habilitation at the Graz University of Technology in 1995 in wood, pulp and fiber technology. He has been a professor at Aalto University since 2007 and headed the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems. Sixta has had a long industrial career at Lenzing AG Austria, focusing on the development of industrially regenerated cellulose fibers and their processing.
The Marcus Wallenberg Award is an international award designed to recognize, encourage and encourage pioneering scientific achievements that contribute significantly to the expansion of knowledge and technical development in fields important to forestry and the forest industry.
Source: Marcus Wallenberg Award
Source: The Nordic Page