As the global climate crisis forces us all to find new, sustainable ways of living, Finland has turned to its forestry traditions to develop innovative solutions for a sustainable future.
With 75% of its land covered by forests, Finland's long history in the forest industry and cutting-edge research is helping to develop solutions from wood, and its by-products that could also play a part in alleviating pressures from global material shortages.
Some of the most creative and unusual innovations made from Finnish wood, biomaterial and pulp that are set to transform our lives include:
- Plywood satellites. How does plywood hold up in zero gravity? We're soon to find out, as the first-ever satellite made from wood will blast off to orbit the Earth in late 2022. Built from plywood sourced from Finnish forests, the spacecraft will be used to study the durability of wood in space, exposing it to extreme conditions, such as heat, cold, vacuum of space and radiation for long periods.
- Sustainable toilets. Could you use a plank potty? The first 100% waterproof wooden toilet is made from wood chips and a special resin that makes it look like wood flakes suspended in glass. The Finnish innovation aims to bring wood into the bathroom and help mitigate the environmental burden related to ceramic manufacturing.
- Wooden teeth. This doesn't mean going back to the days of timber dentures. Human crown implants, developed by VTT, are being made from a bio-composite of nanocrystals in birch pulp and proteins that is stronger and lighter in weight than the technical ceramics currently used for dental crowns.
- Biodegradable bone supports. Wooden plaster casts for fractured limbs can contain toxins, irritants or dust, but these new casts are made from mouldable biomaterial sourced from sustainably managed forests for clean, sustainable protection. The pre-cut splints require minimal preparation and no clean-up and can improve patient throughput by up to 60%.
- Wood you can wear. Soon you'll be pulling on a t-shirt made of trees. The Finnish company Spinnova develops a pulp-based textile fibre. I Its fabric technology saves water, energy and chemicals during production and makes it possible to manufacture textiles in a significantly more ecological way than solutions using cotton or oil-based fibres
- Batter-trees. Forest industry company Stora Enso has constructed a pilot plant aimed at producing a completely bio-based, non-toxic and effective alternative to the fossil graphite used in rechargeable and other batteries. Its target is to create a sustainable, eco-friendly and low-impact anode material to the rapidly developing electric vehicle market
- Sustainable smart cities. Prepare for liveable forests of the future – Wood City in Helsinki comprises residential and office buildings, a hotel and wooden multi-storey buildings built with laminated veneer umber panels. Large scale wood is already starting to replace concrete and steel in big Finnish construction projects.
- Energy-efficient daycare centres. Made from Honkarakenne logs, Finland's first carbon negative daycare centre will store carbon for the centre's entire lifetime before being processed into new wood products and biofuel or being used directly in energy production.
With the world population growing at a rate of around 80 million people a year, it is estimated that by 2030 the world will need 30% more water, 40% more energy and 50% more food. The circular bioeconomy – powered by nature and its sustainable resources – provides a unique opportunity to use renewable natural capital to transform the way we live and work.
Finland is keen to share its deep expertise, unique wood know-how and forest-based bioeconomy solutions with the rest of the world to help globally reduce CO2 emissions, reach climate goals and become more sustainable. Much of the technology developed to transform wood-based cellulose can be used with other biological resources, such as straw and crop residue from agriculture.
"Finnish people have a connection with nature, which is rooted in our culture – it is intrinsic for us to respect the planet and keep it clean. Bioeconomy is based on production that makes use of renewable natural materials in a sustainable manner and develops and deploys related innovations and technologies. That's why we are harnessing the power of wood innovations to play a key role in the circular bioeconomy. We are excited to be at the forefront of such innovative solutions and invite other countries to partner with Finnish organisations to be part of the change," says Juha Peltomäki, Head of Bioeconomy industry, Invest in Finland.
Katja Uusi-Hakala, PR & Media Manager, Business Finland, katja.uusi-hakala (at) businessfinland.fi
Business Finland is the Finnish government organization for innovation funding and trade, travel and investment promotion. Business Finland's over 700 experts work in over 40 offices globally and in 16 regional offices around Finland. Business Finland is part of the Team Finland network. www.businessfinland.fi