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The ambition is to move from the lab to pilot scale

An important step for the “Renewable polymers and barriers” research field is developing new materials that facilitate the transition to a circular economy. The ambition is to take production from the lab to pilot scale. Peter Rättö explains more.

What will you be researching into?

During the research programme, the researchers will try to use forest raw materials and various side streams to create new products. This may involve greater processing of traditional cardboard products or creating brand new types of materials.- “We will produce brand new plastic materials from forest raw materials,” says Peter Rättö.It is also important to look at the complete picture – at the product – and link it to consumer attitudes and a circular economy. 

“We need to find better solutions from the perspective of sustainability compared to today’s plastics and to understand how these will be received by consumers,” says Peter. 

What are the challenges?

The entire industry is struggling to overcome oil dependency and to reduce environmental impact. The programme is intended to find alternatives to replace oil-based plastics with materials based on forest raw materials. A major challenge in this work is to move from the concept in the lab to pilot-scale production. 

“We often perform successful experiments in the lab, but taking the next step to pilot scale is tough – that is something that evades us researchers,” says Peter. “Just producing sufficient quantities of a material for a pilot experiment in the coater is a challenge.”

How can the challenges be solved?

The research programme will look at the chemistry of cellulose and see how residual products in the pulp process can be used to create new materials following two tracks. In the first track, polymers will be modified for use as a barrier material in packaging. 

“Here we will work on new concepts such as polyelectrolyte complexes and liquid crystal systems,” says Peter. 

The other track will look at how molecular building blocks can be produced. The aim is to use these to build new plastics by combining them and creating long chains. Oil-based plastics can be customised to suit application needs in a completely different way than bio-based alternatives due to their molecular structure.

“Ultimately we will be able to control the properties, even in cellulose-based plastics,” concludes Peter.

Peter Rättö is responsible for the area "Renewable polymers and barriers" in the research program 2018-2020.


Peter Rättö
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