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Bio-based filaments in a digital future

17 September 2019, 17:16

The final presentations of this year's round of the transdisciplinary TechMark Arena master students programme cover multilayer filaments, advanced 3D printing, carbon fibres and commercialisation scenarios. The 2019 team involved six students and four projects on the overall theme Bio-based filaments in a digital future.

TechMark Arena is a transdisciplinary academy that brings together master’s students from various backgrounds in order to work on a common theme. This arrangement encourages a broader approach to a topic and ensures a greater exchange of ideas between students and increased knowledge sharing between different projects. The name TechMark Arena comes from the idea of combining research-oriented technology projects with innovation-oriented projects bringing thus research closer to the market needs. RISE is exploring this format as a way to bridge the technology-to-market gap. 

In the 2019 edition of TechMark Arena, six students have worked in four projects within the common theme Bio-based filaments in a digital future. In addition to access to a team of trans-disciplinary supervisors, the students have had joint meetings, where sustainability aspects were put on the top of the agenda. Along with a strong focus on processes, the overall perspective with sustainability goals was constantly guiding the TechMark group.

Each project had the task of developing a demonstrator in order to visualise the results and demonstrate upscaling possibilities. This has been a hallmark of the TechMark Arena since the academy launch.

”By visualising your research, making it understandable for others, you trigger completely new ways of thinking around possibilities of new, innovative materials and processes. The TechMark Arena trans-disciplinary team has co-created many demonstrators through iterative sessions with clear a-ha moments, putting small ideas into bigger context and re-arranging thoughts, and having fun while getting there,” says Ann-Marie Zachrisson who was in charge for organisation of the demonstrator vernissage.

Below is a brief summary of this year's TechMark projects, commented by Marie-Claude Béland, creator of the academy and Tatjana Karpenja, project manager for TechMark Arena 2019.

Process development for production of biobased multilayer filament 

The project goal was to develop the nanocellulose spinning process where filaments with different layers can be manufactured directly in the spinning process itself. The work has been done by Christopher Sundkvist from Linköping University.

“This is a great first step into an area that is not much researched today. I see it as a door opener for many possibilities, e.g. cables or conductive wires where the core has a built-in property and the outer layer can have an insulating property. When we go over to the Internet of Things, everything will be integrated into, for example, furniture, and the bio-based materials that can conduct electricity and perform in bio-based objects will be of high demand,” says Marie-Claude.

Carbonising of lignin-nanocellulose filaments

Mathilda Danestig from Uppsala University studied how to produce a carbon fibre of high molecular order and yet with a high carbon content, thereby providing a novel competitive carbon fibre.

“This project was interesting from two aspects. Partly to know how the lignin affects the properties of the carbon fibre, and secondly to look at efficiency strategies to get as much carbon as possible in the carbon fibres. By taking advantage of both nanocellulose and lignin, a larger proportion of the tree is used. At the same time, Matilda was able to show that the lignin changes the surface properties of the fibre so that it becomes much smoother,” says Tatjana.

Techno-economic evaluation of nanocellulose spinning 

Commercialisation of a spun nanocellulose was analysed from a process and product perspective by Lukas Rask and Rui Liang Zhang, KTH.

“The aim was to investigate different scenarios for the production and identify the potential bottlenecks. The students built up a large number of scenarios based on lab process and made assumptions regarding commercialisable processes. The results indicate that the energy cost plays a big role, which is why we should put focus of our research on that. One can draw parallels to nanocellulose production. A few years ago, nanocellulose was not commercially feasible to produce due to high energy cost, but by focusing the R&D efforts on that, we were able to solve the challenge,” says Marie-Claude.

“This master thesis project has generated a simulation model for techno-economic assessment of the production processes,” adds Tatjana.

3D printing interoperability software

A sustainable industrial design and 3D-printing system based on Swedish technology and raw materials were the focus of this project carried out by Raphael Hansson and Sresht Iyer, KTH.

“The work is linked to the Would Wood project, which deals with additive manufacturing of bio-based materials. Today it is only possible to print this material using layer by layer technology, where Printing of free formed objects generates a lot of support material. This is something that you want to avoid from a resource efficiency perspective. The idea behind this master project was to produce a printer head in order to enable printing in a free space without the need for support material. One of the students has worked with development of the printer head and the other with development of the software” concludes Marie-Claude.

TechMark Arena 2019 was organised with funding from the Gunnar Sundblads Forskningsfond research fund, BISC – Biomaterials Scale-up Center at RISE and Önnesjöstiftelsen research and development fund.

For more information, contact Tatjana Karpenja or Marie Claude Béland.