17.–23.01.2022 #immcologne

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Innovation and sustainability

Furniture made from renewable raw materials

A glance at the past year shows that sustainability is not only a global trend, but also an important innovation driver of furniture design and of the furniture trade. The choice of material is decisive here. New, innovative solutions using renewable raw materials form the basis of the future trend "Green smart materials".

capillary structure

The start-up from the Allgäu, out for space, produces the innovative material of the same name from the capillary structure of rattan palms and thus offers a sustainable alternative to plastic. (Photo: Karuun)

Rethinking traditional materials

It was omnipresent in the 1970s, today it hardly exceeds the retro charm. We are talking about rattan. The start-up out for space from the Allgäu region has rediscovered the natural material and is preparing to establish a sustainable alternative for plastic using the capillary structure of rattan palms. Whereby, the Karuun material reminds one of compacted wood, it is however extremely pliable and malleable. Depending on the structure and finish of the capillaries, numerous exciting fields of application arise that are 100% ecological. It can even be used as acoustic damping. The Karuun Shine variation is permeable to light and air. It is reminiscent of a Japanese paper window, whereby it is significantly more robust.

Technology and aesthetics

Mother Nature is and remains to be one of the most exciting teachers. The company Solaga let itself be inspired by algae and is offering wall paintings made of a microbial culture that serves as a biological air filter. This new greenery for offices or private residences improves the air, hardly consumes any energy and is thus sustainable. Even larger solutions than facade greening or city air filters are already possible and could provide a new quality of life for our cities in the future.

New impulses from the circular economy

The piles of material produced by human beings are coming more and more under the focus of the material researchers in the hunt for sustainable raw materials. The anthroposphere, i.e. the habitat with all its industrial and agricultural products created and characterised by us will become even more important for the production of goods within the circular economy in the future. If no new raw materials are to be implemented, waste has to be recycled and fed back into the production process. In this way, Honext has developed new, endlessly recyclable materials from paper waste and cellulose fibres that can be implemented as building materials or to cover walls. Also w aste wood, plastic bottles or used coffee grounds can be reborn as furniture , for instance this Zuiver chair , the shell of which is made to 42.5 percent from waste coffee.

Desserto

(Renewable raw materials_cactus leather_Desserto) Copy: Vegan leather from the renewable raw material cactus like that of Desserto has a pleasant feel, is abrasive-proof and durable. (Photo: Desserto)

Renewable raw materials under a new guise

Developing innovative materials from well-known raw materials is also a very promising approach. Clever solutions show how renewable materials that is fed back into nature can be implemented for the production of furniture. An award-winning example is the Halo chair by the designer from Berlin, Philipp Hainke. Old hemp fibres and leftovers are pressed into shape and stuck together using lime and proteins for the shell of the chair. Thanks to the carbon dioxide bound in the biomass, the production of the chair is completely CO2-neutral.

The development of vegan leather covers gained momentum last year. In addition to leather made from pineapple leaves or apple leftovers, cactus can also be implemented as a renewable raw material. Desserto is the name of a variation that has a pleasant haptic feel and which is very abrasion-proof and durable thanks to the solid structure of the cactus plant.

Silent Fiber is currently taking the market by storm with functional acoustic panels made of compacted wood, hemp or peat. The panels are simply hung on the wall and thus provide a pleasant soundscape in the office or in the home office . The experts even use moss to create improved and more sustainable room acoustics. In this way, renewable raw materials are taking the furnishing world by storm with new functions.

Moss wall

Experts skilfully implement moss for improved and more sustainable room acoustics. (Photo: Robert Stemler at Unsplash)

Elegant structure colours made of wood

The colours we perceive in our environment are determined by light and texture. Here, microscopic nanoparticle structures determine how the light waves reflect and are perceived by our eye. For example, vantablack, one of the darkest colours in the world, gains its light-absorbing effect from the alignment of carbon nanotubes. In nature, similar effects can be observed in the feathers of a peacock or in butterflies.

The Structural Color Studio of Aalto University in Finland occupied himself with this phenomenon and developed shimmering wooden panels without the use of pigments. By aligning the nanoparticles, the surface shines in many different colours and is at the same time made to 100% from the renewable raw material wood. The researchers of the university achieved the same effects using cellulose and are already researching the process with waste textiles, hemp and flax. Furthermore, these structure colours have the advantage that they are not sensitive to UV rays and don't fade.

Aalto University in Finland

The Structural Color Studio of the Aalto University in Finland developed this shimmering wooden panel from the renewable raw materials wood and cellulose. (Photo; Structural Color Studio of the Aalto University in Finland)

Innovative materials for a sustainable future

Finite resources and the challenge of the climate crisis are changing the customers' demands. The furniture industry should actively push this development and co-shape the global trends. The cited examples show the innovative power that is going to significantly shape our living and lifestyles – and combined with the digitalisation the search for future alternative raw materials has reached a further dimension. The latest trend: Exciting and at the same time sustainable furniture made using a 3D printer.