With a growing global population the demand for textiles is also growing, making the manufacturing of smart textiles important in order to reduce the environmental impact from textile production. Increasing demand for textile pulp (bio-substitution for petroleum-based textiles) together with a decline in demand for newsprint has brought about a shift in the global forest products industry.
With increased global demand for dissolving pulp, which can be used in textile manufacturing of viscose, the global forest products industry has changed technology in order to create textiles from wood. The company Domsjö Fabriker in Örnsköldsvik (Sweden) is one of the pioneers in the field of viscose. Since 2011 Domsjö Fabriker has been owned by the Indian Aditya Birla Group - a leading company in viscose production - and has invested billions (private equity funding for development, demonstration and commercial exploitation) to develop and refine their process to make more from each tree.
The material viscose is made of cellulose from wood and has its greatest use in clothing (viscose) and the manufacturing of hygiene products such as toothpaste. It is an environmentally friendly alternative to cotton and Domsjö Fabriker is the first factory in the world using a totally chlorine-free process for bleaching and operating a closed-loop bleach plant.
The new eco-manufacturing process for producing the textile material viscose can reduce environmental impact by enabling a reduction in chemical consumption. The cellulose from Domsjö Fabriker has a high purity and is produced only from softwood. The unique sustainable manufacturing process also gives the cellulose a consistent quality and high reactivity.
The manufacturing process starts with debarked wood chipped and fed into a digester along with cooking chemicals. In the digester the bark is burned, which emits a vapor that can be used as an energy input to the processes. Cooking chemicals are then recovered in a steam power plant.
The next step in the process is cleaning. The cellulose that has resulted from the digester is washed and then sent to a closed system bleach plant where it is bleached with hydrogen peroxide. Subsequently the cellulose is dried in order to be packed in bales. The total time for the process for producing one cellulose bale is about 40 hours.
Why did it work?
A great asset to the success and development of the viscose production at Domsjö Fabriker was its connection to the forestry sector. Forest resources are vast in Sweden and there is a lot of knowledge from the forestry industry in the area.
Domsjö Fabriker has many years of experience in environmental efforts and production of dissolving pulp. Through partnerships with other companies in areas such as research and development, they can remain at the forefront. Additionally, by being part of the group Aditya Birla Group, it is possible for Domsjö Fabriker to take advantage of knowledge from a global leading manufacturer of viscose.
The specialty cellulose produced at Domsjö Fabriker has been launched commercially and has over several years proven its excellent quality. The process is estimated to be beyond 9 on the TRL scale and, as the demand for more environmentally friendly fabrics is increasing, the future potential for scaling-up looks promising.