Professor Ilkka Kilpeläinen and Professor Herbert Sixta will receive the Marcus Wallenberg Prize in 2022 for their creation and usage of new ionic liquids to transform wood biomass into high-performance textile fibres.
As the world's population grows, so does the demand for textile fibres. Cotton, the most often used cellulose fibre for textiles, is not projected to be able to keep up with demand. As a result, man-made cellulose fibres, which have similar properties to cotton, would be a perfect complement.
The viscose process, which uses alkali and carbon disulphide to dissolve cellulose, and the Lyocell method, which uses N-methylmorpholine-N-oxide (NMMO) to dissolve cellulose, are the two main procedures for producing man-made cellulose textile fibres. The use of hazardous carbon disulphide as the principal reagent in the viscose process has, however, raised environmental concerns. On the other hand, the Lyocell process is hampered by the instability of the NMMO.
These challenges have led to extensive research into several cellulose solvent solutions for the production of regenerated cellulose fibres. Ionic liquids have gained popularity as environmentally friendly alternatives to organic solvents in a variety of procedures. Ionic liquids are salts that may be melted at temperatures below 100°C and offer unique qualities such as low vapour pressure, good thermal stability, and a high dissolving capacity for various organic and inorganic compounds.
Two Finnish research teams, one at the University of Helsinki and the other at Aalto University, have generated high-tech man-made cellulose fibres from wood. The development and utilisation of innovative superbase ionic liquids to turn wood pulp into high-performance textile fibres were created in this concept, which is currently being scaled up.
Professor Kilpeläinen's team at the University of Helsinki created superbase ionic liquid solvents for dissolving wood biomass, such as bleached or unbleached pulp or regenerated cellulose pulp. Prof. Sixta and his team developed the ionic liquid-based fibre shaping technology based on dry-jet wet spinning at Aalto University.
Johanna Buchert, Chairperson of the Marcus Wallenberg Prize Selection Committee, said that this one-of-a-kind collaboration has resulted in a novel sustainable strategy for producing textile fibre from wood. The invention is expected to result in a wide range of new products and business options for the forest industry.
Professor Ilkka Kilpeläinen and Professor Herbert Sixta will receive the Marcus Wallenberg Prize 2022 from HM the King of Sweden at a ceremony in Stockholm in October this year.
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