Jenni Haukio, spouse of Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, will wear an evening gown made of sustainable Ioncell material at December’s Independence Day reception. The dress, currently in production, will be made with birch-based Ioncell fibre from Finland’s plentiful forests. The 6 December event, which takes place at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, is one of the most watched programmes on Finnish television each year.
Developed at the University of Helsinki and Aalto University, the Ioncell process creates quality textile fibres from wood or recycled materials such as recycled newspaper or cardboard and cotton waste. Ioncell fibre is an ecological alternative to environmentally demanding cotton, oil-based polyester or viscose, which is produced using toxic chemicals.
The Ioncell process makes use of a safe, non-toxic ionic liquid, developed by University of Helsinki Professor Ilkka Kilpeläinen. Wood pulp, recycled paper or cardboard and textile waste can be used as raw materials. Mrs Haukio’s dress will be made of birch pulp from Stora Enso’s factory in Joensuu, Finland.
The University of Helsinki and Aalto University have developed the Ioncell method over the course of several years. The team—made up of students and experts in wood processing, chemistry, engineering as well as textile and fashion design—is currently producing small batches of trial fibres and materials.
Cellulose-based Ioncell fibre is biodegradable and as a result does not release microplastics into the environment as it breaks down.
A pilot production line is estimated to be in use by 2020
At the moment Ioncell is at the research stage. To date, the team has created a number of unique products using the process, such as dresses, scarves, a jacket and iPad case.
Preparations for a pilot production line have already begun; it is estimated to be in use by 2020. The resulting fibre production will be significantly larger in scale than in the laboratory. If successful, the process could be ready for industrial production in 2025.