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Aalto University enhancing the bio-based materials research and innovations

In January 2023, Aalto University opened an internal call to enhance the bio-based materials research and innovations in the main thematic areas of the Flagship. The funded proposal have now been selected.

The FinnCERES Steering Group at Aalto has decided to fund the following proposals (in alphabetic order):

Form-stable phase change cellulose smart textiles with multifunctionalities

Principal Investigators: Prof. Jukka Niskanen and Dr. Hossain Baniasad

Flexible wearable electronic textiles are in great demand due to the rapid development of intelligent clothing. Nonetheless, developing wearable textiles-based all-weather conductive fabrics with high conductivity and thermoresponsive properties remains a formidable challenge. Herein, we present a fiber-based strategy to fabricate smart thermal buffering textiles with electro-thermal conversion/storage performance. These multifunctional fibers with high enthalpy, excellent shape and mechanical stabilities, and thermoresponsiveness are made by grafting phase change materials onto cellulose. High electrical conductivity of the fibers is achieved through in-situ polymerization of conductive polymer on the surface of the fibers. These multifunctional energy storage fibers with high electric-to-thermal conversion and heat storage capacities offer a new option for smart textiles, from wearable energy conversion and management to electronic devices.

Mechanochemical modification of cellulosic materials for pathogen and pollutant removal

Principal Investigators: Dr. Eduardo Anaya and Prof. Mauri Kostiainen

Access to clean water is one of the pressing societal, scientific, and economical challenges of the next decades. Such complex task can be tackled from different perspectives, ranging from more sustainable chemistry that reduces reactants, solvents, and byproducts, to development of high-end materials for pollutant removal. The MechanoTrap project provides new solutions for obtaining clean water, by developing solvent-free mechanochemical modification of raw or recycled cellulosic sources. This technology relies on solid-state chemistry in absence of solvent, which is highly convenient for inherently insoluble cellulosic materials. The modular synthesis will yield materials with an extensive range of properties, to be applied in the capture, removal, and inactivation of human-made pollutants like microplastics, and native pathogens including virus, bacteria, and biofilms.

Role played by hemicellulose and lignin miscibility in biomass processing

Principal Investigator: Prof. Tiina Nypelö

Hemicelluloses and lignins in wood cell wall are intertwined forming a polymer network. They are structurally very different polymers but in the network they are considered to be intimately connected. This project is focused on the kinetics and mechanism of the hemicellulose lignin network softening and disintegration when heated, hypothesizing that it is steered by phase separation. The findings are to elucidate the structural changes that take place in the cell wall in fractionation of biomass to guide to higher efficiency of the processing.

Science translation framework for sustainable bioproducts innovation

Principal Investigator: Prof. Luana Dessbesell

Sustainable development requires science-based decision-making to improve and implement solutions that mitigate climate change. However, translating scientific findings is complex and requires multiple disciplines and a holistic, robust, and reliable approach that looks at bioproduct solutions' economic, technical, environmental, and social aspects. This work combines translational engineering research and consolidated sustainability methods in a framework for supporting sustainable bioproduct innovation. The framework is designed in practice to assess innovations in various themes, such as new biorefineries and lignocellulosics as an alternative feedstock for various applications. The results should not only impact the pathways being assessed as case studies but, most importantly, serve as a tool to accelerate development of sustainable bioproducts innovation to reach commercial scale.

Textile-integrated thermoelectric coatings (Textile-TE)

Principal Investigator: Prof. Maarit Karppinen

The Textile-TE project explores the possibilities to (i) fabricate flexible thermoelectric (TE) thin films from Earth-abundant metals in combination with organics, and (ii) integrate these sustainable TE coatings with lignocellulose-based textiles for flexible heat-to-electricity conversion devices. Such flexible TE devices are increasingly demanded for various wearable applications, but they would be highly beneficial for many stationary applications as well, allowing better contact with complex-shaped heat sources. Efficient TE devices consist of n- and p-type semiconductors; these semiconductors should conduct electricity but simultaneously resist heat conduction. We will demonstrate that the “Finnish” atomic layer deposition (ALD) technology is uniquely suited for the fabrication of such dream-of-the-dream materials in a resource-sustainable way.

Upcycling of keratin waste streams in sustainable textile fiber applications

Principal Investigator: Dr. Wenwen Fang

As the textile industry continues to grow, it is critical to discover more renewable resources to develop durable and recyclable textile fibers to satisfy the market and create a circular economy. Cellulose has been studied widely as an alternative to high performance synthetic fibers due to its excellent mechanical properties and abundancy. In addition to cellulose, keratin, which is available as side streams in various industries, e.g. poultry and textile industry, has high potential in textile fiber applications. Derived from its unique chemical composition, it has natural odor and flame resistance. This proposal aims to establish a process to fabricate strong, recyclable, and functional cellulose/keratin regenerated textile fibers from industrial waste streams by combining the mechanical strength of cellulose and functionality of keratin.

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