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KTH is now customising new materials to replace plastics

KTH occupies a unique position in the research and development of new materials that have the potential to replace today's plastic materials in the near future. By harnessing the power of current knowledge, within five years it should be possible to make completely bio-based, biodegradable/recyclable food packaging a reality – without sacrificing the performance of the material.

Eva Malmström Jonsson, professor i Ytbehandlingsteknik

So far, attempts to replace oil-based plastics have focused on emulating the properties of plastics through a complex combination of materials and processes. In a new project, KTH researchers have turned this idea on its head, instead opting to use the unique properties of biomass as their starting point. The individual chemical properties of biomass can be used to customise materials that possess the right properties to allow them to replace today’s plastic materials on a broad front.

A more innovative approach

KTH's approach is much more challenging, but also far more innovative. Moreover, research at KTH already encompasses several of the individual competences necessary for the success of this plan. The entire chain of deep chemical knowledge is in place, allowing beneficial interactions with the forest industry and the packaging industry, which are seeking new applications for their products.

Other attempts to use biomass as a raw material have resulted in complex chemical processes that are costly to scale up industrially and which do not offer good material resource efficiency. Innovative shortcuts are necessary in order to realise the sustainable production of the future. These shortcuts demand the extensive expertise and breadth of knowledge of bio-based materials that make KTH unique.

Therefore, a new project is now being launched to create a new and sustainable packaging based on bio-based materials. There is an urgent need for eco-efficient and biodegradable/recyclable disposable packaging, but the technology necessary to create it is currently only available in the laboratory. With the help of sufficient resources, KTH hopes to achieve its goal within five years. KTH has a unique opportunity, wherein the coordination of current knowledge and competence may lead to a prominent position in the manufacture of the materials of tomorrow.

Key persons

Minna Hakkarainen, Professor of Polymer Technology

Mikael Hedenqvist, Professor of Polymer Materials

Eva Malmström Jonsson, Professor of Surface Treatment Technology 

All are located at the Department of Fibre and Polymer Technology.

KTH's initiative

We wish to connect our world-leading chain of expertise in the fields of chemistry, oil-based polymers and bio-based materials to customise new materials that can replace today's plastic materials.

Why KTH?

KTH's research in the fields of chemistry, biotechnology and health encompasses a wide range of study, from the cellular and molecular level to complex systems. The university is home to the Department of Fibre and Polymer Technology (FPT), which is one of the largest institutions of its kind in Europe. This broad competence has resulted in numerous exciting applications. FPT has developed a method for recycling textiles and developed new materials based on gluten, as well as a transparent wood material that can regulate the absorption and release of heat.

How will we achieve our goals?

We require funds to develop a multidisciplinary organisation that ties together the unique competences that exist within KTH. In the next step, funds are also needed to build up an infrastructure that allows us to develop new process methods for the production of unique materials. After a five-year period, we can achieve results that can serve as the basis for a new degradable/recyclable form of food packaging for industrial production.

Page responsible:Sofia Tatsis
Belongs to: About KTH
Last changed: Jul 07, 2020