Here they are: six new ecological textile fibres developed in Finland, whose market launch has eagerly been awaited around the world. They could replace, for example, the use of environmentally compromising cotton and viscose. We listed everything you need to know about these ground-breaking fibres.
SPINNOVA® by Spinnova
What’s remarkable: The only company in the world that can make pulp into textile fibre without dissolving and harmful chemicals.
Raw material: SPINNOVA® fibre is manufactured by mechanically refining pulp into microfibrillated cellulose (MFC). Spinnova uses FSC certified wood pulp but can also utilize post-consumer textile waste and agricultural waste, such as wheat or barley straw, as raw material. The method can also be used to produce fibre from leather waste.
Method: The closed loop manufacturing process does not require any harmful chemicals or solvents. There are no waste streams. The method is significantly more environmentally friendly than the manufacturing of cotton or viscose: for example, according to Spinnova, the process uses 99% less water compared to the cotton manufacturing process. The material can be recycled again and again without deterioration of fibre quality. The fibre emits 65% less low-carbon than cotton and is quickly biodegradable.
Properties: The hand feel is closest to cotton or linen. The fibre is strong, and it takes dye well. The insulation capability is on a par with wool.
“We are an ingredient brand, like Gore-Tex.”
Goals: “Our goal is to make SPINNOVA® fibre an innovation that is used globally and available in large volumes. This is the only way it will have the desired environmental impact. We already have all the conditions, partners, and funding in place to scale up. We are an ingredient brand, like Gore-Tex. If consumers see the Spinnova name on a product in the future, they will know it is environmentally friendly,” says Emmi Berlin, Spinnova’s Head of Communications.
How to get there: SPINNOVA® fibre is on the verge of commercialisation. It will be globally available for textile brands starting at the end of 2022.
In February of 2021, Spinnova and Suzano announced an investment of EUR 22 million in the construction of a commercial-scale SPINNOVA® fibre production facility in Jyväskylä, Finland. The construction is ongoing and will be completed at the end of 2022.
Suzano is the world’s leading producer of eucalyptus pulp and co-owner of Spinnova. Textile manufacturer Lenzing has also been a strategic partner and co-owner of Spinnova from the beginning.
Brands with high hopes: Spinnova is cooperating with international clothing brands such as adidas, H&M Group and Bestseller. Spinnova has already made demo collections for brands such as Marimekko and Bergans.
Wait for it: SPINNOVA® fibre can be used for much more than textiles. Spinnova is entering the composites market with premium alpine skis in partnership with ski manufacturer Pusu.
Infinna™ by Infinited Fiber Company
What’s remarkable: Infinited Fiber Company turns textile waste into a new, premium textile fibre that resembles and can be used like cotton.
Raw material: Infinited Fiber uses a cellulose carbamate technology that enables the manufacturing of completely new textile fibre from cotton-rich textile waste. Its Infinna™ fibre can also be made using other cellulose-rich waste streams, such as used cardboard and paper, as well as agricultural residues like wheat and rice straw.
Method: In the case of textile waste, it is first sorted and textiles suited to the process are then mechanically shredded. The cellulose in the feedstock is captured for further processing while the non-cellulosic materials, e.g. polyester, are removed. The remaining cellulose reacts with urea to create a cellulose carbamate powder that is converted into liquid form. The liquid cellulose is spun into brand-new Infinna™ fibres, which are ready for yarn spinning. The textiles made with Infinna™ fibre can be recycled again. The fibre is biodegradable and contains no plastics.
Properties: Infinna™ has a natural, cotton-like feel and it takes dye well. Infinna™ can be used just like any other textile fibre to manufacture yarn and fabric, either on its own for 100% regenerated textiles, or blended with conventional fibers like cotton. It has already been used to make different types of textiles and clothing.
“Licensing is an important next step in making Infinna a mainstream material.”
Goals: “Our main business strategy is technology licensing to enable the mass-scale global use of Infinna™ as efficiently and quickly as possible. We are building a commercial-scale factory so that licensees can see how the technology works in practice on a large scale. Licensing is an important next step in making Infinna™ a mainstream material and thus a solution to the global textile waste problem,” says Laura Vinha, Communications Director at Infinited Fiber Company.
How to get there: Infinited Fiber’s Infinna™ is on the verge of commercialisation. Pilot manufacturing of the fibre began in Espoo, Finland, in 2018 and in the beginning of 2020 the company opened a factory in Valkeakoski, Finland. In April of 2021, the company announced that it would be investing EUR 220 million in a flagship Infinna factory. It will also be located in Finland.
Existing cellulose and viscose fibre factories can be converted to Infinna™ fiber production.
Brands with high hopes: Infinited Fiber has attracted prominent cooperation partners worldwide. H&M Group, Bestseller, PVH Corp., Wrangler, Patagonia and the Finnish manufacturer of non-woven fabrics, Suominen, are among clients.
Wait for it: Infinited Fiber is heading an EU-funded project called the New Cotton Project. It aims to model and demonstrate circularity across the value chain and boost circular economy throughout the entire clothing industry.
Ioncell® by Aalto University
What’s remarkable: The Ioncell® technology uses a novel solvent which belongs to the category of ionic liquid. Tests have shown that the tensile strength of Ioncell® fibre is even 2-3 times higher compared to virgin cotton.
Raw material: The Ioncell® process turns cellulose from virgin wood pulp, recycled paper, and cardboard as well as cellulosic textile waste into high-quality, high-strength textile fibre.
Method: The Ioncell® technology was developed by Aalto University in collaboration with the University of Helsinki in the selection of the solvent. The only chemicals used in the production process are non-toxic ionic liquid and water which are recycled back into the process.
Properties: Ioncell® fibres feel soft and are very strong even when wet. Fibres have a silky lustre. The fabrics can be dyed with similar dyes as cotton or viscose, and the dye uptake is very good. Ioncell® is also fully biodegradable.
Objectives and cooperation: Ioncell® has so far been developed under research projects, but the objective is to start commercialising the technology in the coming years. A pilot-scale plant for the development of Ioncell® is under construction in Otaniemi, Finland.
Over the years Ioncell® has been tested for different end-uses in cooperation with many companies, such as Marimekko. The Ioncell® fibre works well in both clothing and technical applications.
Kuura™ by Metsä Group
What’s remarkable: Metsä Group’s concept is based on paper-grade pulp instead of dissolving pulp. This enables a higher yield of textile fibre from trees and energy savings during the process.
Raw material: Metsä Fibre, part of Metsä Group, provides the undried paper pulp utilised in this method.
Method: The method is based on direct dissolution using a novel ionic liquid solution as pulp solvent.
Properties: The manufacturing method of Metsä Spring, an innovation company of Metsä Group, was used to make a textile fibre called Kuura™. It is similar to lyocell, biodegradable and suitable for recycling using the same process.
Objectives and cooperation: Metsä Group’s innovation company Metsä Spring and Japanese general trading company Itochu Corp. established a joint venture in late 2018. A 1 tonne/day demo plant has now been constructed in Äänekoski, Finland. The duration of the demo plant phase is estimated to be approximately two years.
If the results of the demo phase are promising, Metsä Group will next consider investing in a larger textile fibre plant alongside one of its bioproduct mills. The production capacity could be as high as 50,000 tonnes per year. The Kuura™ textile fibre brand was introduced to the general public during Japan Fashion Week in March 2021 together with Itochu and clothing brand The Reracs. A limited edition of bore coats was launched in November 2021.
Bio2™ Textile by Fortum
What’s remarkable: Bio2™ uses agricultural waste that in many areas in the world would otherwise be burned. In addition to the positive environmental impact, Bio2™ boosts regional prosperity as farmers can profit from selling their straw.
Material: The raw material of Fortum’s Bio2™ Textile is cellulose made from fractionated straw. The pulp is spun into textile fibres.
Method: Fortum’s biorefineries process biomass as raw material using the fractionation technology of Chempolis Oy. The development work for the processing of pulp made from fractionated straw is still continuing.
Properties: Designer Rolf Ekroth has described the knitted fabric as high-quality and lightweight, with a silk jersey-like luxury feel.
Objectives and cooperation: Straw is a crop production side stream that has considerable untapped potential. In developing countries, it is often burned resulting in significant CO² emissions. Fortum Bio2X aims to develop high-value items using fractioned agricultural waste as feedstock. The Bio2X ecosystem programme is moving forward and building its first biorefinery in India to produce bioethanol and biochemicals. Operations are due to begin in end of 2022 or early 2023.
In the beginning of 2021, Bio2™ Textile was introduced to international audiences at the Pitti Connect event. Designer Rolf Ekroth used fabrics made of Bio2™ Textile fibres in his AW21 and SS22 collections. The fibres were manufactured using the technology of Infinited Fiber Company.
Biocelsol by VTT
What’s remarkable: Biocelsol can use textile waste in addition to dissolving pulp. The pulp is processed using enzymes. Chemicals involved are water-based, cheap and non-toxic.
Material: Biocelsol is mostly made from dissolving wood pulp but the fibre can also be manufactured using paper pulp and cotton textile waste.
Method: Biocelsol is a technology developed by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Tampere University of Technology. The pulp is modified using enzymes, then dissolved and spun using a wet-spinning technique. There are no toxic chemicals or harmful emissions. The technology is also applicable to incorporate different functionalities for fibres, for example improved dyeability or special visual effects.
Properties: The finished fibre has properties similar to viscose, but the fibre absorbs moisture better than cotton or viscose. It takes dye very well and does not get static. No bleaching is required if starting material is bright. Fabric made using Biocelsol has a nice drape and keeps you warm.
Objectives and cooperation: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is currently looking for partners to continue developing the Biocelsol technology even further and find different uses for it.