Nordic Bioproducts Group, a Finnish startup, has created a new plant-based textile fiber. The company is a spinoff from Aalto University in Finland, which created a patented technology called AaltoCell. The textile fiber made from plants is called Norratex. It is manufactured without any toxic chemicals or solvents.

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A woman with a black face mask dumping a plastic container of fibers onto a table

Nordic Bioproducts also announced the launch of a collaboration with major pulp producer CMPC Ventures to create textiles out of their pulp. 

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Two people wearing white lab coats performing something scientific on a table

“We are very excited about this new collaboration,” said Bernardita Araya, manager of CMPC Ventures. “For CMPC, this represents a significant step toward establishing a leading role in the development of the future of bio-based industries with global impact.”

The market for man-made sustainable cellulosic plant-based textile fibers is expected to grow more than 10% in the next decade. Many startups in this space are Finnish, including Aalto University’s Ioncell fiber, Metsa Spring Oy’s Kuura fiber, Spinnova Oy’s fiber and Infinited Fibre Company’s Infinna fiber.

Up close of the Norratex fiber is similar to a woven material

“Current methods have a detrimental impact on the environment,” Nordic Bioproducts Group said in a statement. “Resource-intensive cotton production is already at an extreme, and polyester, in turn, is a major source of microplastic emissions. And, the production of wood-based viscose fiber requires dissolution with toxic carbon disulfide.”

A ball of the Narratex fibers that looks like a ball of cotton

In the Nordic Bioproducts’ method, the cellulose is hydrolyzed in an environmentally-friendly and cost-efficient process. The fiber is then processed into a viscose-like textile fiber. The inventor of the AaltoCell method is Professor Olli Dahl at Aalto University. 

A machine that is spinning the norratex fibers

The Norratex textile creation uses a wide variety of raw materials. It opens up this technology to multiple sustainable sources of fabric. Fibers can be made from forest industry by-products, textile waste and paper pulp.

“This is a significant advantage over traditional viscose, which is made from dissolving pulp and the cost can be up to 30% higher than paper pulp,” Nordic Bioproducts said. 

A machine that is spinning the Norratex textile fibers

The Norratex method is also being explored for possible use in textile recycling. Most fast fashion uses fiber blends containing both natural and plastic fibers, which makes recycling them a challenge. The AaltoCell technology offers one potential way to solve this problem by creating a new way to split the fibers into natural and plastic components.

+ Nordic Bioproducts Group

Images via Photino Science, Pentti Pällijeff