Biomaterials challenge plastics, synthetic fibers and cotton

Did you know that bacterial cellulose is a promising material for wound dressing and that thermoplastic cellulose can be used instead of plastic, for example in food packaging?
Aalto Bioproduct Centre_Photo Mikko Raskinen

Biomaterials could be utilised both in everyday living and for industry: textiles, household goods, air and water purification systems, catalysts, ultralight transports and energy recovery systems.

Today we already know the problems caused by highly synthetic, oil-based polymers. The problem of micro-plastics has already increased the demand for cellulose fibers in particular, and alternatives to plastics are also being sought in composites and packaging.

Forest biomass has the potential to be the super raw material of the future, which can replace fossil raw materials such as plastics and synthetic fibers, even cotton. According to calculations, the value of Finnish forestry exports can be doubled if biomass is used for higher value-added products.

Health, well-being and sustainable development

Biomaterials have strong potential also in the health care and food industry. Orlando Rojas, Professor of Biobased Materials, gives five examples (The Aalto Effect, 2019): 

  1. Forest biomaterials can be used to make new high performance and safe medical products. Bacterial cellulose, for example, is a promising material for implants, wound dressing and artificial blood vessels. 
  2. Biomaterials can improve the performance of air and water filtration and purification devices as well as lower the cost of producing them. 
  3. In personal care, biomaterials are suitable for strong, absorbent and biodegradable personal hygiene products. They can also be used as stabilisers of creams, lotions and emulsions. 
  4. Thermoplastic cellulose can be used for food packaging. Like plastic, it protects the content from moisture and water, and ensures the safe use of foods for longer periods of time. Cellulose is a safe, renewable and recyclable material. 
  5. Wood is a source of many healthy agents, such as bioactives, which can be used for health-enhancing food. Plant nanocelluloses are sources for gelling and viscosifying agents. There is potential for use as natural and safe additives in food products, such as ice cream and yoghourt, to improve their texture.

Aalto University’s goal is to promote the application and development of materials research in for example the fields of technology, energy, health, design and business.

By donating to biomaterials research, you are helping our researchers develop solutions that lead humanity towards a more sustainable future.

Please contact our Donor Engagement team for further information about donating.

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