Headquarters: Palokärjentie 2-4, 40320 Jyväskylä, Finland
Phase: Having proof of concept from its pilot production line, Spinnova is now working towards commercial scaleup with a number of brands committed to long-term collaboration.
In 2009, Technical Research Centre of Finland’s (VTT) cellulose expert, Juha Salmela, was researching nanocellulose. He attended a conference at the University of Oxford and heard a presentation from a leading spider researcher, who explained the similarities between spider web protein and nanocellulose.
Salmela began to investigate whether wood fiber could be spun into textile fiber in a similar way to this natural process. In four years, the idea spun off from the laboratory into an industrial pilot, and then into the startup Spinnova, earning Salmela the title of 2018’s European CTO of the Year in the category for small and medium-size companies.
Spinnova’s "Why" is that they want to use their deep experience in pulp and paper R&D to produce novel, value-added fiber products that are “disruptively sustainable,” helping the textile industry put less of a burden on the planet.
Their vision is a world where cellulose-based materials are cost-efficient, environmentally friendly, and the preferred textile material option for brands and consumers.
Spinnova creates wool-like textile fibers directly out of FSC-certified wood and waste streams without dissolving or other harmful chemical processes.
Using the technology they created, Spinnova mechanically refines pulp raw material and transforms it into spinning-ready fiber suspension with non-toxic chemistry.
The wood pulp flows through a unique nozzle, where the fibers and fibrils rotate and align with the flow, creating a strong, elastic fiber network. The fiber is then spun and dried, at which point it is suitable for spinning into yarn and then knitting or weaving into fabric elsewhere.
The startup currently has 37 international patents granted and over 50 more pending in seven different patent classes that cover the most critical elements of the process.
In June, 2020, the company announced a new long-term collaboration with the global chemical company Kemira to develop an eco-friendly dyeing method of fiber.
One of the fiber’s unique features is that it can be upcycled in their process, without dissolving or harmful chemicals. This means that in the future, a product can be taken back from the consumer by a brand Spinnova works with and ground back into microfibrils without even dismantling the product or adding additional fibers. The startup is still testing how many times this upcycling process can be repeated without diminishing the quality of the material.
0% HARMFUL CHEMICALS
CLOSE TO 0 WATER USE
MINIMAL CO2 EMISSIONS
Spinnova’s natural fiber material is a white continuous filament. The fiber is a white, fluffy-but-firm wool that the startup claims is as insulating as lambs’ wool. Its stretch and strength qualities are very similar to those of cotton. Depending on the application, they can make the fiber water repellent or absorbing. It is ready as-is for spinning into yarn and knitting or weaving into fabric. With the stretch and strength qualities of cotton and the insulation of lamb’s wool, it can suit apparel, footwear, accessories, home textiles, non-wovens, and more.
Additionally, the fiber can be dyed before the spinning phase, meaning they cut out the need for the intensive water and chemical use involved in traditional dyeing processes.
Spinnova’s fiber can be manufactured out of practically any kind of wood. The company’s main procurement partner is the Brazilian pulp giant Suzano Papel e Celulose, which makes pulp from eucalyptus, but Spinnova can also utilize the long-fiber pulp derived from local softwoods.
Currently, Spinnova will send samples to selected partners only. As their fiber is not yet commercially available, they are unable to reply to requests for quotes on price, quantity or other details.
January 2021: “Auction for the only two Spinnova Myllynkivi dresses in the world has begun on Stockholms Auktionsverk platform today. Go and bid for one of these beautiful, unique Vuokko Nurmesniemi pieces now! This is for a good cause, too - all profits will go to protecting the Baltic Sea.”
Images from Spinnova.