HELSINKI – A team of researchers from Aalto University, led by Professor Herbert Sixta, have reported further progress in their work producing man-made cellulosic textile fibres using a ‘next generation’ range of ionic liquids which allows for the dissolution of cellulose and its subsequent regeneration into filaments. Sixta presented the work of the Ioncell-F process at the recent 253rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). Sixta, who heads the biorefineries research group at Aalto University, said his team is working on a process to upcycle worn-out garments: “We want to not only recycle garments, but we want to really produce the best possible textiles, so that recycled fibres are even better than native fibres,” he said, adding that the fact that cotton and other fibres are often blended with polyester in fabrics complicates processing. Research has showed that many ionic liquids can dissolve cellulose, but the resulting material couldn’t then be re-used to make new fibres. However, Sixta’s team say they have found an ionic liquid that can dissolve cellulose from wood pulp, producing a material that can be spun into fibres. ‘Ioncell’ fibres, it is claimed, are stronger than commercially available viscose and feel similar to Lyocell.
Written by Brett Mathews