Demographic changes such as population growth in developing countries and an ageing population in the West, combined with increasing standards of living and urbanisation trends, will foster a greater demand for products linked to human wellbeing, health and hygiene. Consumers are demanding enhanced product properties, guaranteed product safety, environmental compatibility and new functionalities such as intelligent features or in-built services (e.g. diagnostics or monitoring). New products have to contribute to enhancing healthcare services and reducing their costs whether for laboratories, hospitals or mobile services.
State of the Art 2012
The use of paper towels offers a cost-effective basis for improved hand hygiene. The performance of tissue products has been improved considerably in terms of their water-binding capacity. Soiled towels, nappies and incontinence aids are collected and disposed of sustainably and safely in order to protect public health. However, moisture barriers made of non-degradable plastics reduce the overall biodegradability of the products. Consumers are shifting from recycled fibre-based products to virgin fibre products.
Expected achievements by 2020
New hygiene and healthcare products with improved softness, strength and antibacterial properties have been developed. A production concept for nappies and pads with high water absorption and repellent layers has been developed. Functionalised cellulose fibres will be used to create nappies and incontinence aids with special filter properties. Bioactive functions are integrated with tissue products for diagnostic and drug delivery purposes.
Required Research and Innovation Activities
A. Develop methods to improve softness and strength of tissue products.
B. Enhance the microbial safety of different fibre raw materials.
C. Develop production concepts of layered tissue products with multi-layer properties.
D. Develop concepts to monitor dryness of hygiene products like nappies and to acquire diagnostic data via embedded intelligence and communicating functions in tissue products.
E. Develop and establish design criteria to enable recyclability of relevant product categories and methods for the safe disposal of non-recyclable materials.
F. Develop advanced and edible paper-based substrates for pharmaceuticals with controlled release properties, smart intake control functions and consumer personalisation.
G. Explore the applicability of wood- and fibre-based material in medical applications.