Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Finnish SME’s are boosting the development of new fibre products with VTT and Lahti University of Applied Sciences


VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd and Lahti University of Applied Sciences will develop optimised product properties for fibre products and biocomposites that have been manufactured using a foam-forming technology. The objective of the NoMa project that started in the autumn is to create new business for those small and medium-sized enterprises involved in the project. VTT’s new inventions support the targets of the project.The study examines what kinds of product ideas, product properties and design possibilities will be achieved by combining materials with, for example, nanocellulose, hemp or cost-efficient side streams with the help of the newest technologies.
The NoMa project will develop new properties for biocomposites and thick fibre foam structures by means of an optimal combination of long natural fibres, fines, nanofibres and polymers. By combining nanocellulose, hemp stem or bast fibre into thick fibre foam structures and biocomposites, the durability and water resistance of fibre products can be improved, or colour and shine can be created to biocomposites. Nano-sized hemp will make a product stronger and lighter and can also improve the water resistance of products.
It is a vision of the companies that are involved in the project of VTT and Lahti University of Applied Sciences to manufacture, for example, wall materials that absorb sound, decorative panels, growth platforms or interior material for packages to replace polystyrene.

New inventions from VTT
According to research carried out by VTT, proteins can be used in strengthening the structure of materials: proteins form thin films on the interfaces of foam bubbles that strengthen porous structures. VTT is applying for a patent for the method. Proteins used in the invention are hydrophobins, surface-active proteins produced by mycelium mats, which form strong elastic films on air/water interfaces.

VTT has also submitted a patent application for a method in which microscale fine containing lignin is manufactured directly from fresh wood by grinding. Fines that can be produced easily and inexpensively can, for example, be used for manufacturing biocomposites and foam structures when the goal is to improve the interaction and strength properties of materials.
Elastic fibre structures as vision

Besides development possibilities in the coming years, the project also sets development targets further into the future.
In ten years, it will be possible to develop elastic fibre structures with the help of new innovative material combinations. Our vision is to develop compact reversible materials for products that will spring into their full size for use,” says Senior Scientist Katariina Torvinen from VTT.
The Institute of Design and Fine Arts, which is part of the Lahti University of Applied Sciences, is involved in the project by bringing a new design perspective into the design of products.

Companies involved in the project represent various production phases ranging from raw materials, pre-treatment and modification of materials, material processing, and manufacturing end products.
Project partners: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, Lahti University of Applied Sciences; small and medium-sized enterprises 3D Formtech Oy, 3DTech Oy, Ahosen Taimisto Oy, Brainwood Oy, C.O. Panu Isokangas Oy, Earthpac Oy, Novarbo Oy, Epira Oy, Hikinoro Oy, Swanheart Design Oy and FL-Pipe Oy, and major corporations Metsä Board Oyj and Metsä Fibre.
The NoMa project (Novel structural materials with multi-scale fibre components) that is part of Tekes’ Green Growth programme will be implemented on the basis of the needs of the companies involved. The project started in the autumn, and will be completed on 30 November 2017. The total budget is about EUR 1.3 million. The most important funding bodies of the project are Tekes and VTT.

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