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Aalto University funded four multidisciplinary projects on advanced lignocellulosic materials

In March 2022, 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):

Biowaste-derived carbon-negative materials for acoustics (BCN-ACU)

Principal Investigators: Prof. Jaana Vapaavuori and Prof. Tapio Lokki

The core idea of the BCN-ACU project is to substitute current market standard insulator materials, rock and glass wool, with biowaste-based sound and thermal absorbents. As proof-of-concepts, we will develop silent air duct and silencer for air conditioning pipes that bind the carbon of biowaste to buildings for decades. The proposed research combines distinct expertise of Chemical and Acoustical Engineering and aims at paradigm shift in construction industry by demonstrating that biobased products can exceed the performance of state-of-the-art materials in multiple occasions in building materials. Industrial scalability and circular economy, with the prospect of providing urgently needed carbon-negative construction materials, are at the core of this multidisciplinary research.

Hyperspectral imaging for target-functional cellulose nanopapers (HYPER)

Principal Investigators: Dr. Eero Kontturi and Prof. Mikko Alava

The lack of quantitative Process-Structure-Property (PSP) relationship between the preparation of nanocellulose, the chemical and morphological structure of its nanoparticles, and the properties of the eventual materials is a serious bottleneck in nanocellulose utilization as most current approaches are based on experimental trial and error. HYPER will tackle the problem with a comprehensive experimental matrix of systematically prepared nanocellulose grades and nanopapers thereof. The characterisation data from this matrix will be paired with hyperspectral imaging and fed to modern machine learning (ML) algorithms to construct a PSP relationship for nanocellulose over the full value chain, from the plant source to the actual material. HYPER will provide unprecedented tools for tailoring nanocellulose production with specific qualities for targeted applications.

Engineering of lignin precursors for high-value applications through a new methodology for structure – performance correlation (Lignocor)

Principal Investigators: Prof. Mikhail Balakshin and Prof. Patrick Rinke

Valorization of lignins for high-value applications is critical for forest bioeconomy. However, it is limited by the lack of reliable methodology unfolding correlation between lignin structure and its application performance. Herein, we are developing a new methodology to solve this problem using two approaches: 1. analytical modification of lignin to selectively change only one structural variable at the time followed by the evaluation of its effect on application performance and 2. advanced modeling (statistics and artificial intelligence) structure – performance relations using a large variety of different lignins included those provided by three industrial partners. The methodology will be applied to advance in high-value lignin applications of utmost business importance, namely lignin sorbents, adhesives and thermoplastic blends.

Multifunctional Bio-based Textiles (SuperTextil)

Principal Investigator: Prof. Ali Tehrani and Dr. Janne Halme

SuperTextil aims to produce multi-functional conductive bio-based fabrics through an eco-friendly, and scalable graphene-based coating without using any metals and unsafe chemicals. The target is to achieve good tensile strength, hydrophobicity, fire retardancy, and electrical heating properties. SuperTextil will advance the scientific field and open doors of opportunity to fabricate the next generation of high value-added bio-products including washable smart textiles with built-in sensors. SuperTextil multidisciplinary research engages experts in material science, chemistry, and physics to develop multi-functional biomaterials and conduct theoretical modeling to explore various properties and potential applications. The researchers are aiming to apply for external funding based on their successful preliminary results after two years. The project can be commercialized by transferring the know-how or patent to interested companies or a spin-off company from Aalto.

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