Description of impactThe increasing disposable income of the globally growing middle class, amplified by an estimated population growth of 20% over the next two decades, will trigger a hitherto unseen need for consumer goods. This also includes textiles and garments and will increase the annual per capita demand for cellulosic fibres from 3.7 to 5.4 kg by 2030. Cotton cultivation will not be able to meet this demand in the future, and so-called man-made cellulosic fibres (MMCFs) need to fill the gap. Currently, MMCFs are almost exclusively made via the viscose process, which necessitates tremendous amounts of CS2 to form a spinnable cellulose derivative. The toxicity of CS2 and its side products pose a severe risk on work forces and the environment, and strict regulations have led to the shutdown of almost all viscose mills in Europe and North America. Yet, the increasing demand for textiles has promoted numerous new installations in China and Indonesia where the legislation to protect the workers and the environment is less rigorous. The only commercial alternative for the production of MMCFs is the Lyocell technology using the solvent N-methylmor-pholine N-oxide (NMMO). It can dissolve cellulose directly and does not require any other chemicals. However, it has notable intrinsic shortcomings, such as a reduced thermal stability and a considerable redox potential, limiting the application spectrum of the process. Both the viscose and the NMMO-Lyocell process require highly refined cellulose isolated from wood through various energy and chemical consuming pulping processes. There is an obvious need to develop an alternative process that bypasses the abovementioned drawbacks to satisfy the demand for textiles of future generations in an environmentally benign and sustainable way.
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