4.3 New biobased products


Today, pulp and sawn wood are the primary products of the forestbased industries. These are further refined into a spectrum of products, ranging from commodity to consumer products (see state of the art below). The emerging biobased economy, however, demands more alternatives to current fossil based products. This opens up significant opportunities for the forest-based sector, as wood has the potential to be much further exploited than it is at present.

State of the Art 2012

A multitude of products are produced today from wood. Key products of the woodworking industry include wood panels, house-building materials and furniture, while the pulp and paper industry has four main product groups: paper, board, tissue and cellulose derivatives. Paper and board are used for communication and packaging, whilst tissue includes hygiene products such as toilet paper and nappies. Cellulose derivatives are used in films of regenerated cellulose (cellophane or sausage casings), to make clothing (viscose fibre) and adhesives, varnishes, explosives (nitrocellulose) and rheology modifiers, e.g. in food applications. The pulp and paper industry, especially mills that apply sulphite pulping, produce several by-products: lignosulphonates, ethanol, acetic acid and xylose (for xylitol). Other products of today’s forest-based industries include turpentine, tall oil products, materials with a composite structure (e.g. wood fibreplastic composites) and even bioactive substances. The role of energy-related products is also increasing. In addition to producing heat and power, the forest-based industries also produce wood pellets and bio-oil (by flash pyrolysis).

Expected achievements by 2020 

Several new, wood-derived products are expected to be commercialised by 2020. Advanced biocomposites used, for instance, for vehicle interiors, as well as new building materials have been introduced. Bioplastics, derived either from native wood polymers or re-built from wood-based monomers like ‘syngas’, will bring novel bio-solutions to the packaging sector, for example. Regenerated cellulose fibres have been used for decades to make textiles and nonwoven materials; the coming years will most likely see further advances in this segment (i.e. new processes, novel regenerated fibres, broadened application areas). As the demand for biobased products grows, new wood-based performance polymers (glues, resins, paints, etc.) and techno-chemicals (solvents, detergents, water chemicals etc.) will reach the marketplace. There will also be developments in wood-based cosmetic constituents, functional foods, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, and even materials used in medical tissue engineering. The portfolio of energy-related products made from wood will also grow. New energy carriers (e.g. pellets, biogas, synthetic natural gas and bio-oils) especially for heating purposes, as well as various biobased hydrocarbons for transport fuel applications, are likely to be commercialised by 2020. Wood-based alcohols, by novel routes, will also be available.

Required Research and Innovation Activities 

A. Develop new products from wood fibre (nano/ microfibrillated cellulose (MFC), nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC), fibre/polymer blends, novel (solvent-free) derivatives, some even with improved thermoplastic properties, etc.).
B. Invent new textile fibre qualities based on cellulose for replacement of cotton fibres in textiles.
C. Develop new products from lignin (e.g. chemicals, in composites and as carbon fibre) and hydroxy acids (chemicals and polymers).
D. Develop hemicellulose-based products, in which the hemicellulose is utilised especially as an oligomer or as a polymer (e.g. chemicals, films).
E. Develop products based on wood extractives, including chemicals but also products based on the bioactivity of the forest-based components (used for protection of woodworking products, as food ingredient or even as pharmaceuticals).
F. Develop more advanced products from traditional fractions, such as tall oil and turpentine.
G. Develop weatherproof panels, fibre-based insulation materials and wood-polymer composites suitable for exterior use.
H. Improve existing, long-lasting adhesive systems for flake boards, medium density fibreboard (MDF), oriented strand board (OSB) and plywood boards as well as for glulam by using ingredients which are not based on fossil resources and are free of emissions (e.g. adhesive systems based on renewable resources).
I. Study new materials generated by novel wood fractionation technologies (see RIA 3.4).
J. Upgrade syngas and bio-oil into transportation fuels and further into chemicals and polymers (see RIA 3.4).
K. Develop new industrial value chains starting from sugar solutions, based on fermentation or other means to upgrade the sugars (see RIA 3.4).
L. Adapt biomimetic design approaches and, in general, the integration of recycling-oriented product design criteria into the development processes of new biobased products.