Skip to main content

A Training Network on Designing Novel Bio-based Fibre Products for Targeted Advanced Properties and New Applications

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FibreNet (A Training Network on Designing Novel Bio-based Fibre Products for Targeted Advanced Properties and New Applications)

Reporting period: 2017-12-01 to 2019-11-30

FibreNet trains young fibre-professionals for academic and non-academic sectors. These professionals will have multidisciplinary perspective and competences to develop sustainable bio-based fibre products with tailored properties for different application fields.

Bio-based industries form an important industrial sector in Europe. It accounts for more than 22 million jobs and approximately 9% of the workforce in EU. The European Commission has recognized the bioeconomy as one of the future drivers for sustainable economic growth in Europe and has shaped a strategy for the development of the sector.

The traditional bio-fibre based industry is undergoing an intensive transformation phase. This is due to 1) overcapacity (resulting, e.g. from the reduction in the use of printing paper due digitalization), 2) push towards bio-based economy (greener products needed throughout their life cycle), and 3) changes in the needs and priorities of end users (changes caused, e.g. by the aging society). Thus, there is an increasing need for totally new environmentally friendly products and for products with new functionalities. This transformation requires very specific multidisciplinary research actions and professionals with new types of skill sets and competences. Development of innovative products requires a deep understanding of the fiber materials and their functionalization and behavior as well as broad knowledge on existing and emerging applications. The education and research in FibreNet specifically addresses this combined challenge to both understanding the materials and the broad field of applications.

The fibre-professionals trained in FibreNet will have a comprehensive view of the multidisciplinary field of bio-based fibres and tools, and knowhow to develop sustainable products with tailored properties for different application fields. This is important since currently, there is a clear knowledge gap on how to effectively connect the fibre properties to the properties of the end-product in order to tailor the product properties. There is also a training gap in Europe, as we do not currently have a training programme, which would prepare professionals having a skill set needed for the fibre-oriented approach adopted in FibreNet.

The main research objectives are related to three important application areas of bio-based fibres:
• to boost the competitiveness of biocomposites in the composites sector and improve their strength and durability properties by enhancing the fibre-matrix interface properties,
• to improve the price-competitiveness and functionality of paper and fibre-based packages by developing new modification, characterization and modelling methods and tools,
• to improve biocompatibility, extend the linear drug release period and increase pilot production capabilities in fibre-based wound healing and tissue engineering applications.
The scientific results obtained so far summarized according the application fields are:

• Biocomposites: The results are related to improving interfacial properties between the bio-fibres and the matrix and improving the durability of biocomposites in the presence of moisture. Furthermore, different finite element and molecular dynamics models have been built to understand fibre-related phenomena and the computational methods have been complemented by developing micromechanical characterization methods.
• Paper & packaging: The results are related to automating pulp fibre characterization and increasing the measurement throughput, as well as to development of new strength chemicals for pulp and paper. Furthermore, simulation is utilized to connect single fibre properties to macroscale properties such as fibre networks of paper and board and to predict the stochastic failure of fibre-based materials that have structural variations. Experimental methods have been developed to determine the degree of molecular contact between fibre bonds for determining the bond strength between fibres and to determine viscoelastic properties of pulp fibres at different time scales in order to relate these properties to mechanical properties of paper.
• Biomedical applications: The results are related to the fabrication and testing of different functionalized bio-based fibres for biomedical textile applications in wound healing, for example. Furthermore, functional 3D printed cell scaffolds, utilizing electrospun and modified bio-based fibres, have been developed for regenerative medicine.

Many parts of the results have been obtained in cooperation with FibreNet participants; joint results have been achieved especially during the secondments to universities and companies.
The envisaged progress beyond the state of the art in FibreNet is related to forming a common toolbox for different application areas of bio-based fibres. The toolbox includes methods for functionalizing and modifying fibres and fibre properties, fibre characterization, modelling, production and life cycle assessment. The goal is to better link the fibre properties at atomistic and microscale to the product properties at macroscale. This link would enable the tuning and optimizing the characteristics of the end-products.

The project has positive impact regarding the students’ career prospects. This is due to the holistic approach adopted in the training: Besides the individual research topics that go deep in rather narrow fields, the students are given a truly multidisciplinary perspective to the field of bio-based fibres by:
• introducing three important application fields of bio-based fibres: biocomposites, paper & packaging and biomedical textiles and cell scaffolds
• exposing students to both academic and non-academic sectors
• offering mandatory and optional training on functionalization & modification, characterization, modelling and production of bio-based fibres

The above combined with excellent network building abilities and carefully planned transferable skills training will produce bio-fibre professionals holding multiple perspectives and strong identities as independent and innovative researchers ready for both public and private sectors.

In addition to positive impacts on careers and employability as well as on shaping the training on bio-based fibres in Europe, the project has also significant economic and societal impacts, e.g.:
• Improved competitiveness of the European bio-based industry: New fibre products create new business. New functionalities in existing products help to retain competitiveness and to sustain the bio-based fibre industries in Europe.
• Greener society: Understanding and being able to modulate the link between the fibre properties and the properties of the end product enables reducing the amount of raw material in the product, applying more sustainable chemistry and smaller dosages of chemicals, using recycled material without impairing the product properties, replacing fossil-based materials with bio-based fibre materials and meeting the continuously tightening environmental/chemical regulations. This also translates to competitive advantage on global markets.
• Improvement of well-being: FibreNet contributes to creating new bio-fibre based biomedical products that enable new and better treatments. New wound healing methods and cell-based treatments can, e.g. increase life expectancy, improve patients’ capacity to work and promote active and healthy aging.
FibreNet logo
FibreNet fields