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Nordic Biomaterials with CHEMARTS – a crucial course for future-changers

The Aalto University Summer School course Nordic Biomaterials in collaboration with CHEMARTS gathered students from Sweden, the USA, Germany, Norway and Belgium for a summer course on Aalto campus for the first time since the pandemic in August 2021.
Student in a white lab coat and blue plastic gloves photographed from the back while experimenting in the CHEMARTS lab smashing green pine needles into a white mortar while looking at recipes from the CHEMARTS cookbook.
The students got to experiment in the CHEMARTS laboratories. Photo: Petri Anttila

In the coming years, our material world will change dramatically. The overuse of existing raw materials cannot continue, and global consumption must decrease. However, our need for materials will not disappear: also, in the future, materials will come to nurture us, cover us, comfort us, delight us, as well as keep us alive. 

The course contains a mix of lectures, laboratory experimenting and exercises, guest speakers and field trips. This year, the student group hopped on the bus to UNESCO World Heritage Site Verla in Kouvola to visit the historical paper mill that was eventually turned into a museum in 1961. The students learned about different paper manufacturing techniques used in the past and about paper as a material.

Exploring sustainable entrepreneurship

‘The best part of this course was we were able to get practical knowledge about biomaterial practicalities as well as exploring a sustainable mindset and learn about sustainable entrepreneurship. Moreover, we could test our ideas in the laboratory with different biomaterials and tools. We had various guest speakers from several different industries, such as the forest industry, entrepreneurs, investors and artists. We got the opportunity to ask questions and discuss with them – some of my classmates even got to pitch their ideas.’ comments Mariko Yoshida, master student at Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture and alumna from this summer’s Nordic Biomaterials course.

‘We also built a very tight-knit relationship with my amazing classmates, all with totally different backgrounds. We still keep in touch through Telegram.’ Mariko continues.

Mariko Yoshida in a red jacket standing in the forest, smiling directly into the camera.
Mariko Yoshida, master student and alumna of Nordic Biomaterials with CHEMARTS 2021

‘I hadn’t seen other course participants or professors and lecturers in person since last autumn, so it truly felt fantastic to be back on campus and not have to log on to Zoom.’ says Mariko Yoshida, one of the Nordic Biomaterials with CHEMARTS students.

‘There is a considerable lack of knowledge about where the materials come from and how they are produced. To make a real change, we need to understand what material systems exist today and how they are connected to our consumption habits. When we are more informed, we can change our behaviour - even small steps for change are valuable. To change the systems on a big scale, we need collaboration over all possible disciplines and borderlines – it is a joint effort.’ says course professor Pirjo Kääriäinen, Department of Design, the responsible teacher for the course together with professor Tapani Vuorinen from the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems.
 

The course culminates in a Presentation Day, where the students hold presentations about what kind of sustainable biomaterials they have been experimenting with within the labs during the two-week course and showcase the end products during a small exhibition. The students experimented with different biomaterials to come up with new cellulose-driven concepts and ideas.

What is CHEMARTS?

CHEMARTS is a long-term strategic collaboration between two Aalto University schools, the School of Chemical Engineering (CHEM) and the School of Arts, Design and Architecture (ARTS). The schools merged their forces to invent new ways to harness wood and cellulose. The idea is to research the performance and design of advanced cellulosic materials for innovative uses. The main objective is to inspire students and researchers to explore biomaterials together and to create new concepts for the future use of cellulose and other biomaterials. 
 

Students in front of Väre building of Aalto University campus

Aalto University Summer School

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