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New demonstration plant for cellulosic textile fibers

| By Scott Jenkins

A new demonstration plant will significantly scale up production of sustainable textile fibers made from cellulosic raw materials. TreeToTextile AB (Stockholm, Sweden;, jointly owned by H&M Group, Inter IKEA Group, Stora Enso and LSCS Invest, has piloted a production technology to efficiently regenerate cellulose from bio-based sources, creating staple fibers that can be used in apparel, bedding and other textile applications.

The process dissolves wood pulp in a cold alkaline solution, resulting in a cellulosic solution that can be spun into long threads of fibers. After washing, fibers are cut into staple fibers and can be passed to downstream yarn-spinning processes. Notably, the system recycles all process chemicals and water. “When compared to conventional viscose production, according to our estimations the TreeToTextile process will consume at least 33% less energy, 70% less chemicals and 80% less water,” says Sigrid Barnekow, TreetoTextile CEO.

Chemical recovery is key, points out Barnekow, because it means that there are no waste or residue streams leaving the process, and it also eases some of the economic and technological burdens in scaling up the technology. TreeToTextile has been operating a pilot plant at a research partner’s facility, and recently completed a third-party-verified lifecycle assessment to benchmark its emissions production against manufacturing processes for traditional bulk fibers, such as viscose (rayon), cotton and polyester. “Our next milestone is constructing a demonstration plant and preparing for market introduction,” says Barnekow.

Construction has begun on a €35-million demonstration plant that will scale up fiber production to 1,500 ton/yr. The new plant will be located at Stora Enso’s Nymölla mill in southern Sweden. “Hopefully TreeToTextile fibers can be an alternative to less-sustainable materials in the future. Our aim is to provide a sustainable textile fiber with a high versatility for many applications and a lower cost so that it becomes broadly available to many consumers,” adds Barnekow.