Biofore Magazine 2022
FINDING POTENTIAL IN WOOD WITH MYTHBUSTER Jamie Hyneman
THE KEY TO SOLVING EUROPE’S ENERGY CRISIS
JUSSI PESONEN AND HIS VIEW ON UPM’S FUTURE
MATERIALS TO BUILD A SUSTAINABLE WORLD
WE CREATE A FUTURE BEYOND FOSSILS
Our purpose is to create a future beyond fossils. The most efficient way to mitigate climate change is to reduce the use of fossil raw materials. Through responsible forestry and wood-based materials, we offer both manufacturers and consumers innovative low-carbon alternatives, and a chance to create lasting change.
ED I TOR I AL
The climate crisis , the global pandemic, Russia's war in Ukraine and economic uncertainty have prompted people around the world to look at their lives from new perspectives. It has become a question of both daily choices and deeper values. In part, we have been forced to change. The pandemic-related containment measures prevented normal daily life for a long time. The exceptional situation in the energy market has led us to monitor electricity prices and reduce consumption. At the same time, we want to activelymake decisions and choices that will carry us far into the future. Howcan I playmy part in building a better tomorrow?What is meaningful and important now and in the future? Of course, these considerations also extend toworking life.We spend long hours at work, and for most of us, work is muchmore than a source of income. At its best, it provides a meaningful sense of community and belonging. Numerous studies show that people around the world want to do meaningful work. On pages 6-7 of this magazine, we explore this trend and what it might lead to. In a McKinsey survey, as many as 82% of respondents said it was important for an organisation to have a purpose beyond profit. The phenomenon was already evident before the pandemic and has only grown stronger in recent years. For many, the societal dimension of work is more important than the pay. Meaningful work also has an impact on leisure time, as it contributes to people's overall well-being. At UPM, we have an inspiring, forward-looking and bold purpose: we create a future beyond fossils. UPM's purpose and strategy are also explained by President and CEO Jussi Pesonen in an excellent interview on page 32.
According to scientists, themost effective way tomitigate climate change is to reduce the use of fossil resources. The transition towards zero-emission energy and renewable, recyclable materials is necessary. Sustainably managed forests and plantations enable change. At UPM, we want to provide solutions and challenge both companies and consumers to make responsible choices, whether it is about materials (page 16) or green energy (page 26). Together, we can tackle the biggest challenges. Join us on the journey beyond fossils! Hanna Maula , Editor-in-Chief
Editor-in-Chief Hanna Maula Managing Editor Sini Paloheimo Editorial Team Kristiina Jaaranen, Päivi Vistala-Palonen Content & Design Spoon Agency Cover photo Teemu Leinonen, LUT Printing Punamusta Cover UPMFinesse Silk 200 g/m² Pages UPMStar 1.2matt 100 g/m² Address UPM-Kymmene Corporation, PO Box 380, FIN-00101 Helsinki, Finland Tel. +358 (0)204 15 111 upm.com We deliver renewable and responsible solutions and innovate for a future beyond fossils across six business areas: UPMFibres, UPMEnergy, UPMRaflatac, UPM Specialty Papers, UPMCommunication Papers and UPMPlywood. As the industry leader in responsibility, we are committed to the UN Business Ambition for 1.5°C and the science-based targets to mitigate climate change. We employ 17,000 people worldwide and our annual sales are approximately EUR 9.8 billion. Our shares are listed on Nasdaq Helsinki Ltd. UPMBiofore – Beyond fossils.
6 FACTS AND F IGURES The future of work will be all about purpose. 8 HI STORY OF THE . . . Trace the history of wound care through the ages.
38 Bumblebees are the forest's most important pollinator.
26 FEATURE Could green hydrogen help solve Europe's energy crisis? 32 FEATURE President and CEO Jussi Pesonen discusses UPM’s primary goals and role in society. 36 FEATURE When sciencemeets purpose. 38 THROUGH THE L ENS We’re facing a worldwide fertiliser shortage, so it’s time to dive into the side streams for solutions. 47 OP INION Do bio-basedmaterials have the potential to fuel green growth? 48 FEATURE Find out how a label has instilled value into worthless ocean plastic. Getting up close and personal with bugs. 44 FEATURE
10 IN THE SPOT L IGHT MythBuster Jamie Hyneman assesses wood’s untapped potential. 12 NEWS IN BR I EF Catch up on what’s been happening at UPM. 13 AROUND THE WOR LD FromSouth Korea to Uruguay, get the latest UPMnews fromaround the world. 14 SNAPSHOT Preparing plastic and rubber for the RFF revolution. 16 B IG P ICTURE Materials innovation could be key to saving our planet. 22 FEATURE Biomimicry is inspiring innovations that improve sustainability.
Catch up on the latest with the Paso de los Toros pulp mill as it nears completion.
53 MONEY TALKS
MikaMikkola on why companies must take bold decisions to ensure growth during times of uncertainty. 54 TECH HUB Meet the world's first plywood robot. 58 FEATURE Explore the bounty of your local forests. 62 TODAY, I . . . Three UPMemployees show how the small steps they take every day can make a big difference.
The pandemic and Great Resignation have transformed how, where and why we work. How is purpose shaping that? What's purpose got to do with it?
T he world is witnessing the largest transfer of wealth in his tory, withbabyboomers expected topass aroundEUR24.5 trillion on to millennials, a generation that sees societal improvement and not profit as the purpose of business. BlackRock CEO Larry Fink predicted in 2019 that this sentiment would drive their decisions as investors and employ ees. But it's not just millennials who are seeking more. Nomatter the level of experience, age or interest, many are seekingmeaning in what they do. “Belief that one is doing something meaningful is important to a person’s psychological and even physical health,” says Dr Jim Harter , Chief Scientist for Workplace Management &Wellbeing at Gallup. “Employees with purposeful work have higher overall well-be ing—they are more likely to be thriving in their overall lives. When times are tough, they are likely to be resilient because they can see the impact and bigger picture of their work,” he adds. Amatter of priorities Nearly a million employees in America said that the best places to work in 2022 were the ones that prioritised employee well- being and fostered cultures of inclusion, purpose, genuine listening, caring and empathy. There is pressure on employers to strengthen an employee’s sense of belonging, engagement and well-being, even as they nurture diversity, inclusiveness and collaboration. However, employees are not adequately convinced. Gallup’s State of theGlobalWorkplace: 2022Report found that just 21% of employees feel engaged at work and 33% are thriving in their overall well-being. It estimates that this low engagement costs the global economy EUR 7.6 trillion and accounts for 11% of global GDP. “Employees with purposeful work have higher overall well-being— they are more likely to be thriving in their overall lives.” Employers must close this gap because it can have dire consequences. A Korn Ferry survey of 684 professionals last year found that nearly half were now more likely to leave a role with out securing another job thanbefore the pandemic. They said that theday-to-daygrindwas justnotworththeeffortandmanywantedto pursueworkoptions thatweremorefulfillingandprovidedapurpose.
Bridging the purpose gap A McKinsey study revealed the wide gap between how peo ple in different positions perceive fulfilling their purpose in their daily work. While 85% of executives and upper management felt they were living their purpose at work, barely 15% of front-line managers and employees agreed. Experts say that even though organisations value increasing the emotional connection with employees, they don’t know how to execute it. Harter points out that despite clearly stat ing their mission or purpose, most firms fail to make the pur pose statement succinct enough for easy recall. “Importantly, they fall short by not upskilling their managers to have the right kinds of ongoing conversations with their employees to revisit goals, reviewprogress and recognise them for the contribution they are making to the organisation’s mission or purpose. Managers must articulate how each job contributes to that overall mission or purpose,” he elaborates. Companies where employees strongly agree that the purpose of their organisation is important for society have better busi ness outcomes, lower absenteeism and better quality of work, resulting in higher overall well-being, productivity and profit. A better future for all Purpose-driven work offers organisations the opportunity to serve society better, enhance their reputation with existing and potential employees and stakeholders, and be profitable. One’s individual purpose is intrinsically linked with organisational purpose because work is where we spendmost of our time. According to McKinsey, 70% of people define their purpose through work. How can individuals align their purpose with that of an organisation? Harter suggests identifying the larger purpose of the company you work for by clearly knowing whom the company is serving and the intended impact of the work. “Clarify how the work you do every day contributes to that largermission or purpose, either directly or indirectly. Set goals that not only contribute to that, but also improve your individu al productivity. Collaborate with others in the organisation and establish objectives that bring customer value.” This is how purpose becomes the thread that binds individu als, organisations and communities to work for a better and brighter future for society at large. As BlackRock’s Larry Fink says, ‘Purpose is not the sole pursuit of profits but the animating force for achieving them’.
By Payal Bhattar Photography Getty Images
FACTS AND F IGURES
LIVING PURPOSE IN DAY-TO-DAY WORK (% RESPONDENTS)
of executives and upper management agree they can live their purpose in their day-to day work 85%
AGREE/ STRONGLY AGREE
THE QUEST FOR MEANINGFUL WORK g Nearly half of today’s workforce would willingly take a 15% pay cut for an organisation with an aspiring purpose g 15% of people with a demonstrated sense of purpose have a 15% lower risk of premature death 15%
of frontline managers and frontline employees are unsure or disagree that they can live their purpose in their day-to-day work
DISAGREE/ STRONGLY DISAGREE
FRONTLINE MANAGERS AND FRONTLINE EMPLOYEES
EXECUTIVES AND UPPER MANAGEMENT
SOURCE: PURPOSE-DRIVEN WORK, KPMG
IS ORGANISATIONAL PURPOSE IMPORTANT? SOURCE: MCKINSEY ORGANIZATIONAL PURPOSE SURVEY OF 1,214 MANAGERS AND FRONTLINE EMPLOYEES AT US COMPANIES, 2019
82% 72% 62% 42%
It is important to have a purpose
Purpose should receive more weight than profit
Their organisations have a purpose statement
Their organisations’ purpose statement drives impact
HOW COLLEGE GRADUATES VIEW PURPOSE IN WORK SOURCE: FORGING PATHWAYS TO PURPOSEFUL WORK: THE ROLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION (2019), GALLUP & BATES COLLEGE
Extremely important Very important Moderately important Slightly important or not important
Nature nurture Humans have had to treat injuries since time immemorial. From moss to antiseptic chemicals and synthetic fibres, modern-day wound care has returned to its roots: Mother Nature's healing arms. an d
Antisepsis British surgeon Joseph Lister invented the antisepsis method and was the first to introduce the use of clean cotton batting soaked in phenol to treat wounds.
STONE AGE Moss Used as nature’s own wound dressing for thousands of years, some moss species restrict bacteria growth, are effective in absorbing liquids and have antiseptic qualities.
MID- 1800 s
1800 s Cotton
Among other textiles, such as silk and wool, cotton was commonly used as a dressing. The use of cotton gauze soaked in paraffin was embraced by the medical community.
Animal fat, honey and lint
The Egyptian Papyrus Ebers, the oldest known medical manuscript in human history, advises in the use of linen textiles coated with lint, animal fat and honey in wound care.
Several advancements were made in wound treatment during World War I and II. One of them was the non adherent dressing that comprised of two layers, giving the basis for dressing advancements for years to come.
By Sini-Maria Melanen Photography Getty Images, Pexels
HI STORY OF THE . . .
FibDex® Made from wood based nanocellulose, FibDex is a wound care dressing created by UPM in collaboration with researchers and healthcare personnel. It's used to treat skin graft donor sites and it has been found to accelerate healing.
Researcher George D. Winter was the first to discover that keeping a wound in an optimal moist environment promoted healing. The method became common practice over the following decades.
1950 s Synthetic dressings Emerging synthetic materials such as nylon and polyethylene gave researchers and doctors new means to better protect injuries and even accelerate the natural healing process.
1970 s Hydrogel
Composed of complex hydrophilic polymers, hydrogel dressings provide optimal conditions for tissue regeneration and a cooling effect that is helpful in alleviating pain.
The mythbusting professor Inventor and former MythBuster Jamie Hyneman takes a break from his California workshop to discuss the untapped potential of wood and the power of inquisitiveness.
When the hit TV series MythBusters ended,
Jamie Hyneman wanted to validate himself in the real world. So far, he has designed and built a drone hunter and a remote controlled firefighting vehicle. He is now developing a telepresence robot made using Baltic plywood as part of his tenure as Professor of Practice at LUT University in Finland.
By Asa Butcher Photography Teemu Leinonen, LUT
IN THE SPOT L IGHT
How has your experience as a professor at a Finnish university been so far? Remote lecturing fromCalifornia has been a challenge, but we’re build ing a telepresence robotmade almost entirely out of Baltic plywood so I can have some physicality. It has a flat-pack design like IKEA furniture and even some of the bushings/bearings and lead screws aremade from wood, which we achieved by simply drilling a hole and impregnating it with oil or grease (readmore on page 54). I do visit Finland once a year for a week or two, but I'm like this ‘big shot’ that shows up, talks to people and then disappears. This isn’t conducive to giving students the confidence to push back against my ideas, which I welcome. I want to give themamore balanced education, where they learn something in class and can then experiment with it. The best way to internalise something is to have some physical connection with it. How important has it been to teach sustainable engineering to students at Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT)? It's a focusof theJamieHynemanCentreandLUThas longbeenorient ed thisway. After arriving inFinland, I realised thatwood is anextensive natural resource and that Finnish culture has been formed in part by that. I've had talks with UPM about the importance of getting sustain- ableproducts into the supply chain. It's one thing to thinkof an invention or new approach, but it's not going to make any difference unless you canget it in thehands of users andget it into themarket. The simple fact is that it's going to cost somebody something to adopt a new idea. Have you always believed in incorporating sustainability into your research throughout your career? I grew up on an apple orchard in the American Midwest and saw the impact we had on it. There were several small lakes on the property that were crystal clear and loaded with fish, but after a couple of years of my father applying modern agriculture practices to the orchard, the lakesbecamemurkyand thefishdisappeared. Ever since then, I'vedone everything I can tominimisemy footprint. The sustainable engineering of different materials can have a pro found impact on the world. We’re aware of the problems that are occurringwith climate change andwe've dawdled too longwithout doing enough. I'd like to see as much effort as possible put into sustainable structures and the responsiblemanagement of our resources before it's too late. What materials have yet to reach their fullest potential? I've long been fascinated by engineeredwood. Glulam(glued laminated timber) and plywood have been around for a while, but I think they can be further engineered. At LUT, we've been experimenting with truss-like configurations that are very strong. If we can use that triangulation, the entire wood
structure can be lighter. The students and I have already made a beam fromplywood that is of a standard glulam size, but a tenth of the weight. Using one of LUT’s load cell testers, we’ll break the glulam and our truss structuretoseethedifferenceinperformance. If itsupports50%asmuch, then that's a win. Finding ways to minimise the amount of mass needed sets upa feedback loopof everythingbecoming lighter and stronger.
“I realised that wood is an extensive natural resource and that Finnish culture has been formed in part by that.”
What other innova tions have caught your attention? I saw that wood is being used tomake foam, sowe don’t have to use polyu rethane or Styrofoam. I believe it is made by pul verising a wood product or polarising cellulose from trees and then aer ating it in a slurry. Lignin and other wood-based chemical components create the adhesive that holds all those finely grounded particles together. It has high-insulating qualities and doesn't require pe troleum in its produc tion. When it goes to a landfill, it's not going to harm the environment and it'll decompose nat urally. There is unlim ited potential in how
wood canbe engineered, butmy biggest concern is if forests aren’t sus tainablymanaged and harvested then it could backfire in a heartbeat. What do you believe is at the heart of innovation? Ultimately, it's all about curiosity. Young people are naturally curious. When they play, they're running experiments and asking questions. If you have an education system that is more inclined to indoctrinate rather than encourage asking questions, then you're not going to get as much innovation. We stumbled onto this when making MythBusters. By being playful and destructive, it created a subversive element to what we were doing and it made people want to watch us more. We were just like children learning how to deal with the world. If you are methodical about it, then it's amazing what can be accomplished.
NEWS IN BR I EF
UPM Forest Action launched
A new global forest responsibility programme that will run until 2030 is our latest undertaking to raise the bar when it comes to continually developing leading industry practices in sustainable forestry. Named UPM Forest Action, it will cover climate and biodiversity targets, as well as sustainability criteria related to water, soil and economic and social contributions. All objectives will be implemented in our own forests and plantations and promoted throughout our wood supply chain. Local characteristics will be considered to maximise the positive impact.
In 1872, the Verla groundwood mill and the Kymi and Kuusankoski paper mills began operation. Pori’s Seikku sawmill and the Valkeakoski groundwood and paper mill were also established in the same year, with production starting at the latter in 1873. MILLS CELEBRATE 150 YEARS
EcoVadis has recognised UPM on a Platinum level based on our sustainability performance. The rating helps customers evaluate supplier responsibility and only 1% of the 90,000 global companies assessed received its highest level of recognition. ECOVADIS PLATINUM RATING
CLEANER SHIPPING AHEAD
UPM has become the first Finnish company, acting as a shipper
and charterer, to discharge ship-generated wastewater on land and use circular economy solutions in wastewater treatment. The new model will be implemented in four of Finland’s most important ports.
SELF-ADHESIVE LINE GROWTH
The acquisition of AMC AG will strengthen UPM Raflatac’s position in Central Europe and expand the product offering to new self-adhesive product lines. Founded in 1996, the German firm employs more than 300 people and operates two factories.
Finland In the port of Pietarsaari, the first pulp cargo was loaded onto Lady Marie Christine, which is one of the newest ships in sea transport to be fuelled by liquefied natural gas (LNG) or marine fuel. The pulp bales continued their journey to customers in different European countries.
Germany UPM BioMotion™ Renewable Functional Fillers (RFF) were presented at the world's biggest rubber industry fair in Nuremberg. The innovation has been acknowledged as the most important sustainability project in the elastomer and rubber industry.
E U R O P E
N O R T H A M E R I C A
Germany The natural gas-fired combined heat and power (CHP) plant at the UPM Nordland paper mill has been put into operation. The investment is estimated to decrease our CO 2 footprint by 300,000 tonnes.
A S I A
A F R I C A
South Korea UPM Biochemicals and Dongsung Chemical will form a strategic partnership to develop renewable products using bio-based raw materials, initially for shoe materials targeting the Asian market and its vast textile and footwear industries.
S O U T H A M E R I C A
A U S T R A L I A
Uruguay Our first forestry research centre specialising in eucalyptus plantations has opened in Paysandú. Working at the new facility are around 60 employees, including agronomists, experts in forestry health, research and wood quality, as well as chemical technologists and operators.
UPM around the world NEWS AND INSIGHTS FROM OUR GLOBAL NETWORK OF OPERATIONS
How can the rubber and plastic industry be revolutionised? The answer is 100% wood-based Renewable Functional Fillers (RFF) that can replace the 15 million metric tonnes of industrial carbon black and precipitated silica used annually. By replacing these two CO 2 ₂- intensive products, the unique RFF properties can significantly improve the environmental footprint of both rubber and plastic, while adding technical benefits absent from today’s product mix. Made from responsibly sourced hardwood from sustainably managed forests, they are at least 25% lighter than conventional fillers, which equates to higher material efficiency and better fuel economy. Suitable for a broad range of applications, RFF will be a real game-changer. The powder driving a revolution
Materialising a future
Large-scale photovoltaic solar panels cover Mount Taihang in China.
By Ndéla Faye Photography UPM, Mike Karlsson Lundgren, Getty Images, XPRIZE, David Kelly Crow
B IG P ICTURE
The global population may reach 9.7 billion by 2050, meaning the natural resources of three Planet Earths will be needed to sustain our current lifestyles. What is being done to reduce this impact – and what effect will this have on our behaviour as consumers? H istorical periods have been named after the materials that shaped the advance ment of humanity. Their significance is immeasurable, and it could be argued that advances in materials science and the advancement of human civilization are correlated. The discovery and utilisation of bronze, iron and, more recently, oil and
aluminium, have been pivotal in human evolution. But where has the incessant pursuit of the next big material led us? The sixth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report, published earlier this year, warned that we have arrived at a 'now or never' moment if we want to prevent a complete climate breakdown and meet global climate targets. We are at a point where our over-dependence on fos sil-based resources is no longer viable. Luckily for us and our planet, materials science is a field in which constant ad vances are being made to troubleshoot the imminent prob lems we are facing across the globe. Scientists, engineers and researchers are among those tirelessly looking for solutions to ensure a better future for us all, while trying to beat the relentlessly ticking time bomb of climate change, population growth, scarce raw materials and much more. A circular economy is the future Someone who has spent decades tirelessly working to de fuse that bomb is Emily A. Carter , Gerhard R. Andlinger Professor in Energy and the Environment, and Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University, whose current research is being backed by the US Department of Energy and US Department of Defense. Carter believes that we must be moving towards operat ing in a fully circular economy. “For centuries, we have been
Emily A. Carter, Princeton University.
The construction sector is increasingly using engineered wood such as cross-laminated timber (CLT) which is sourced from sustainably managed forests.
water splitting. Having a way to generate hydrogen from sunlight has huge implications because, in principle, you end up with a fuel, which, when it burns, produces water and zero greenhouse gases. “We have had some very recent exciting results and are submitting a paper on it. We’ve designed a new material based on our quantum modelling, and experiments conducted by other collaborators at US Department of Energy National Laboratories have verified its efficacy – although I can’t say much more than that right now,” she confides. In addition, Carter is working jointly with experimentalists at Houston’s Rice University on nanotechnology, which would displace
extracting carbon out of the ground. It’s important not to demonise those who have made innovations in that space because ultimately, it’s what has enabled our way of life. None of the early innovators could have known the extent to which it would jeopardise the future of our planet until much more recently. Now that we know better, we must do better.” Recycling, reusing and upcycling are likely to become the norm in the future. “We also need to rethink recycling and find new ways to recycle plastics and batteries more effectively, for example,” Carter notes. New materials underway According to the Finnish Innovation Fund, Sitra, circular economy interventions in four key sectors – food and agriculture, construc tion, textiles and forestry – can halt global biodiversity loss and help the world recover. However, Sitra’s Project Director Kari Herlevi highlights that this will require significant changes in the way we produce, consume and manage products and materials. Rethinking our current approach must include reassessing the types of fuels we use. Hydrogen is often presented as a 'great green fuel' but, as Carter points out, 95% of the hydrogen in use, espe cially when driving, emitted CO 2 when it was produced in the first place. The use of a completely green fuel would be monumental when utilised in industry, storage, transportation and electricity. Carter's current research focuses on the understanding anddesign of materials for sustainable energy. She’s been working for several years with collaborators at Arizona State University on solar energy conversion to produce ‘green’ hydrogen using solar thermochemical
the need to use fossil carbon and could revolutionise the chemical industry by reusing greenhouse gases to form chemicals and fuels. She believes incentives need to be put in place to drive change and inno vation. “I wish people could see that our planet is burning and recognise that we need to step beyond our self- interest and fight climate change,” she adds. Incentives drive innovation Incentivising innovation is at the core
Anousheh Ansari, XPRIZE Foundation.
of what the XPRIZE Foundation does. The non-profit organisa tion designs and hosts large-scale global incentive competitions to crowdsource solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges.
B IG P ICTURE
New advances in materials science are solving global challenges.
As part of the XPRIZE challenge, one of the winning teams is injecting CO 2 emissions from power plants and other industrial facilities into concrete used in construction, reducing the sector's carbon footprint.
B IG P ICTURE
The possible end-uses for wood-based products are growing: a) a chair made from cellulose reinforced biocomposite, b) sustainable packaging materials made from wood pulp, c) a wooden satellite made from birch-plywood, d) sustainable fuels made from crude tall oil.
“Our vision is to co-architect an abundant, hopeful and equitable future for humanity. We do this by identifying barriers and grand challenges that humanity faces, and then we incentivise radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity,” summarises Anousheh Ansari , XPRIZE Foundation CEO. XPRIZE Foundation's model has proven to be successful outside of global economics and political systems, and its focus is on impact. Fundamentally, Ansari believes that there are more people in the world that want to do good and help others, and this hopeful energy is what XPRIZE is all about. “Our audacious missions start by iden tifying clear targets and inspiring the global community of problem solvers to build the solutions. By identifying the outcomes without specifying the approach, wemaximise innovative approaches to find the best, most efficient solutions,” she explains. “As an entrepreneur, the incentive prize model was a no-brain er for me. Competition inspires crowdsourced solutions without a payout until the solution is built and tested, minimising risk. Since the first XPRIZE proved successful, we’ve used this model to inspire
innovation for humanity’s pressing challenges across other sectors and have seen similar and better results,” Ansari states. Future of material innovation When it comes to materials of the future, the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE challenged teams to turn waste carbon dioxide into valuable products. One of the winning teams is focusing on injecting the CO 2 emissions from power plants and other industrial facilities into concrete that can be used for construction, and in the pro cess, help the sector reduce its footprint. Ansari is excited and hopeful about the possibilities that some of the research is producing: “We believe this technology holds the potential to make immense changes to our society.” Who knows what the next era in our civilisation will hold – and what material it might be named after? By working together to find these urgent solutions, we won’t be overstretching our planet threefold for natural resources, but rather sustainably utilising the one Earth that we all inhabit.
By nature's design
Nature is the greatest R&D department on Earth. By using biomimicry design, humanity can copy proven processes and structures to create sustainable innovations that transform the planet.
Artist’s impression of the new National Assembly building under construction in Porto-Novo, the capital of Benin.
By Beetle Holloway Photography Kéré Architecture, Getty Images, Biome Renewables, Airbus AlbatrossONE, Sharklet Technologies
F rom the skies to the sea, the tropics to the temper ates, Earth is an interconnected network of natural R&D labs, churning out innovations that are proven towork, efficient tomake and inherently sustainable. Nature’s solutions have been tried, tested and honed over 3.8 billion years. Nature’s designs are tailor-made for the local ecosystem and crafted for long-lasting resilience on Earth. Nature’s production lines max imise efficiency without leaving any waste. If only humanity could borrownature’s blueprints to address its own challenges… This is the essence of ‘biomimicry’: looking to the natural world’s time-proven creations for sustainable solutions to our problems. Although biomimicry is not new, climate change has increased humanity’s need for circular solutions. “Nature makes things with a lot fewer components,” says Richard James MacCowan , founder of the Biomimicry Innovation Lab. “By using materials that can be grown instead of made, there would be a massive reduction of resources, waste and energy, allowing us to tap into the circular economy.” As biomimicry can be applied to almost any industry – be it avian aerodynamics inspiring modern transport or in frastructure projects influenced by spider silk – could in novations inspired by nature’s master engineers transform humanity’s trajectory and that of our home? These five biomimetic examples certainly make a strong case.
Architecture – Benin National Assembly Whether it’s using nature’s rawmaterials for construction, copying its aesthetics for beauty or studying its structures for resilience to the elements, architects have long looked to the natural world for inspiration. However, when it comes to Benin’s upcoming National Assembly building, biomimicry also carries a cultural significance. In West African tradition, a ‘palaver tree’ is a designated tree in a community (usually a baobab or kapok) that hosts public gatherings and communal debates under the shade of its canopy, making it the perfect inspiration for Benin’s new 35,000m 2 parliament building in its capital of Porto-Novo. Designed by Kéré Architecture, the building – like the palaver tree – is split into a wide trunk and broad canopy: the trunk is hol low, ventilating and illuminating a large central courtyard, while the canopy is a network of exposed ceiling beams, evoking tree branches and filtering the sunlight. The dazzling architecture not only embodies Benin’s cultural identity, but the efficient use of space and light, as well as reducing energy use and waste. A ‘palaver tree’ is a designated tree in a community that hosts public gatherings and communal debates under the shade of its canopy.
Energy – kingfishers and maple seed turbines The kingfisher and the maple seed sounds like a fairy tale, but is actually a story of torque, aero dynamics and wind turbine efficiency. Wind tur bines can only produce energy fromthewind that’s blowing, but they canmake themost out of that wind by reducing ‘root leakage’ – an airflow issue that draws power from the blades and creates turbulence.
A design inspired by the overlapping scales of sharkskin is being used to create germ-free barriers for medical tubing.
and allow sharks to glide up to almost 70 km/h underwater. Sharkskin swimsuits were banned following a record-break ing 2008 Olympics, but its unique shape has also been found to prevent a build-up of parasitic organisms, which blight oth er marine animals. Businesses like Sharklet Technologies have copied this natural design to create germ-free barriers for hospital surfaces and internal medical tubing, such as catheters and endotracheal tubes, which are resistant to bacteria growth. In other words, the power of biomimicry can transforma ‘ferocious
Biome Renewables have looked to nature’s airflow gurus to mit igate the problem. The company’s PowerCone is inspired by the beak of a kingfisher – which can plunge through water without a ripple by precisely moving fluid (in this case air) around itself - and the maple seed, which falls to the ground in the pattern of least resistance. As such, the blades absorb more gusts and channel the wind in a way to enhance performance. The result? 51% peak aero dynamic efficiency, a 6% increase in annual energy production and less noise. Medical – sharkskin medical tubing When you think of sharks, it’s likely that Jaws and jagged teeth come to mind. However, one of the ocean’s apex predatorsmay soon be better known for its skin.With at least 450million years of natural product development, modern-day sharkskin is formed of overlapping scales called dermal denticles (‘little skin teeth’), which reduce turbulence
maneater’ into a human lifesaver. Fashion– lotus-inspired clothing
The fashion industry needs a sustainable makeover. According to the UN Environment Programme, global fashion accounts for 10% of carbon-dioxide output and a fifth of plastic production (main ly through polyester), while 87% of clothing’s fibre input ends up
The hinged wing tips of albatrosses, which enable the birds to adjust to changes in wind speed on long-distance flights, have inspired the freely flapping wing tips of the Airbus AlbatrossONE.
incinerated or discarded. Luckily, biomimicry can be a fashion designer’s inspiration. Whether it be growing leather from mushrooms or studying butterflies for dyeless pigments, the fashion world can both use andmimic nature’s solutions. For instance, lotuses are superhy drophobic. When water hits the flowers’ surface, it simply rolls off, removing dirt or accrued dust at the same time. As such, lotus-inspired coats are not only waterproof, but self-cleaning too, increasing their durability and lifespan, while reducing the need to be regularly washed. For stain-heavy garments – whether they be mechanics’ overalls or baby clothing – the waste and water-saving potential is huge.
changes in wind speed on long-distance flights, have inspired the freely flapping wing tips of the Airbus AlbatrossONE, allowing the plane to reduce drag and resist turbulence in response to wind gusts. Aviation may be one of humanity’s greatest achievements, but it’s also one of its most contentious. Biomimicry has the potential to change that. A natural world of possibilities Biomimicry concerns all sectors of human activity and sits in the middle of the Venn diagram between science, business and governance, where university research, corporate production and civic planning can combine to address the world’s challenges. However, just because the natural world can, it doesn’t mean we always should. “One of the big challenges is design thinking,” says Richard James MacCowan. “In the past, scientists liked creating shiny things because we could, but now it should be about solving problems. Is there a need for it? Is there a problem you’re trying to solve?” What’s more, merely copying bioengineering does not make human engineering automatically sustainable; the production processes and materials used to create these biomimetic designs must be sustainable too. This could be growing fungi for packaging or applying the physics of a Venus flytrap’s snap-buckle to closing underwater hinges without man-made energy. Overall, it’s a question of decision-making. Whether it’s nature’s raw materials, processes or structures, biomimicry holds a range of game-changing cards for humanity. It’s up to us to play them wisely.
Transport – avian-influenced aircraft Ever since the Wright brothers devised their first aircraft by studying the flight and lateral balance of pigeons, aero space pioneers have been keen ornithol ogists. From studying the V-shaped for mation of migrating geese to reduce fuel consumption during paired flights to analysing the wing and tail structure of birds of
prey for greater flight control, plane manu facturers like Airbus are looking to make planes lighter, greener, cleaner and quieter. For example, the hinged wing tips of albatrosses, which enable the birds to adjust to
– CAN IT CRACK EUROPE’S ENERGY PUZZLE?
Green hydrogen plays a key role in the European Union’s plans to reduce its reliance on Russian fossil fuels. But is it a viable solution in itself or a piece of the puzzle?
By Natalie Marchant Photography UPM, Getty Images
The quicker we switch to renewables and hydrogen, combined with more energy efficiency, the quicker we will be truly independent and master our energy sys tem,” said European Commission (EC) President Ursula von der Leyen in May.
Her comments came as the EC released its REPowerEU plans in response to the global energy disruption caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine and as part of wider goals for the EU to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. The plan includes setting a target of 10 million tonnes of domestic renewable – or ‘green’ – hydrogen production and 10 million tonnes of imports by 2030 to replace natural gas, coal and oil in hard-to-decarbonise industries and transport sectors. Green hydrogen is made by using electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Its benefits include being 100% sustainable, easily storable and extremely versatile, as it can be transformed into electricity or synthetic gas and used for commercial, industrial and mobility purposes. But it has yet to be produced anywhere at a large scale due to the cost of production and its volatility, leading to storage and transportation issues, and meaning that many in the indus try are concerned about the EU’s ability to rise to fulfil these targets. Working to achieve ambitions To address such concerns, the plans propose that EU electro lyser manufacturing capacity is scaled up significantly tomeet the expected demand for renewable hydrogen production. Tim McPhie , EC Spokesperson for Climate Action and En ergy, says: “The European hydrogen industry estimates a need of around 120 GW of electrolyser capacity in the EU by 2030, whichwould suffice tomeet the objective of producing 10million tonnes of renewable hydrogen.” He notes that European electrolyser manufacturers have an objective in place to have a combined annual electrolyser manufacturing capacity of 17.5 GW by 2025 in Europe, which is ten times the current figure. “They aim to further increase
“The European hydrogen industry estimates a need of around 120 GW of electrolyser capacity in the EU by 2030, which would suffice to meet the objective of producing 10
million tonnes of renewable hydrogen.”
Green hydrogen should be produced when energy is very cheap – such as when wind turbines are generating more than can be used immediately.
that capacity by 2030 in line with projected demand for renewable and low-carbon hydrogen.” The Commission has also published two draft Delegated Acts on the definition and production of renewable hydro gen and is working on a range of initiatives to implement its hydrogen ambitions with industry and other stakeholders. What's more, it has put an extra EUR 200 million of funding into research and recently approved up to EUR 5.4 billion in support from 15 mem ber states through the Hy2Tech Important Project of Common European Interest project, which is expected to unlock some EUR 8.8 billion in extra in vestments. In addition, significant amounts of money are being poured into green hydrogen developments in EUmember states. However, Tapio Korpeinen , Exec utive Vice President at UPM Energy, is among those questioning whether it will be enough to scale up to the required capacity. Instead of being a one stop solution, he says green hydrogen – or low-emission or zero-emission hydrogen, as he prefers to call it – should be seen as a piece in a puzzle. “Hydrogen has many benefits and good features, but there are a number of challenges that need to be overcome, which is why it usually only starts to make economic sense when hydrogen is a piece of a puzzle that is The puzzle analogy is one echoed by Stephen Jackson , Chief Technology and Market Officer at Hydrogen Europe, a trade body that represents more than 350 companies, 20 EU regions and 30 national associations working in the sector. “A complementary set of solutions is necessary to achieve impactful emissions reductions. Hydrogen is a central piece of this puzzle and is needed across many sectors of the EU’s economy thanks to its long-term storage capacity and baseload capabilities.” One of Korpeinen’s key concerns is the efficiency of green hydrogen. “If you take electricity and you produce hydrogen on an electrolyser – just straightforward, nothing else – you lose about 30% of the energy content of the electricity that was used to produce that hydrogen,” he says. “If you take that hydrogen and put it in a fuel cell that is driving a car engine, then there are further energy losses in that process.” Green hydrogen should be produced when energy is very cheap – such as when wind turbines are generating more than can be used immediately. “Unless you can use it on the spot, it makes sense to use the hydrogen to produce something that is easier to transport – like a synthetic fuel,” he adds. Hydro gen is also valuable as an input in industrial products and economic,” he explains. Benefits and challenges
processes where reducing emissions is otherwise costly or diffi cult – such as the replacement of coking coal in the steel industry. UPM’s competitive edge Prepped for the future, UPM Energy has a lot of emission-free power generation – hydro and nuclear – itself and the company already uses hydrogen in its industrial processes, particularly for renewable fuels. UPM is also currently constructing a biochem icals refinery in Leuna, Germany to produce chemicals that can replace fossil-based petrochemicals with wood-based chemicals. In addition, UPM has significant amounts of biogenic CO₂ produced from biomass at UPM pulp mills. Biogenic CO₂ will be one key resource for a fully sustainable hydrogen economy in the future. With such assets at hand, UPM is actively investigating opportunities in the hydrogen economy. Definition concerns What unites the industry currently is the lack of regulatory certainty of definitions and certain proposed restrictions that may hinder hydrogen’s full potential. It has been proposed that only the use of electricity fromnewwind and solar plants shall be accepted for green hydrogen production, but many are questioning that limited approach.
Green hydrogen is a zero-carbon fuel that, when used, produces nothing but water vapour.
Electric vehicles using hydrogen fuel cells could benefit from increased range as well as lighter and less expensive batteries.
There are calls for a ‘tech nology neutral’ approach, which would help the mar ket innovate and incentiv ise investment in the early stages of moving from fossil fuels. “The focus should be on reducing emissions as soon and cost-effectively as possible, not on a spe cific electricity source, as by adhering to technology neutrality we would ramp up the production of green and low-carbon hydrogen much more rapidly,” argues Korpeinen, who adds that UPM is calling for the recognition of low-carbon
“The focus should be on reducing emissions as soon and cost effectively as possible, not on a specific electricity source.”
hydrogen as a complementary way to support hydrogen uptake. Technologies for producing hydrogen are developing fast, making REPowerEU's narrow definition a problem. As Jackson notes: “Besides electrolysis-produced hydrogen, there are other ways that integrate renewable power and produce hydrogen, such as pyrolysis. This can be done with biomass, wood, sewage and waste – basically, from all sources that can be gasified or contain methane. This could reduce Europe’s energy dependency on overseas fossil imports.” Building frameworks and incentives The current energy crisis in Europe and high energy prices call for a rapid increase in domestic renewable production. Scaling up wind and solar capacity to support energy independence and reduce emissions will put pressure on how much new capacity can be established in the short term. “Can we simultaneously increase renewables to decarbonise the electricity mix to replace external energy sources such as gas and boost renewables for green hydrogen?” Korpeinen asks. “Instead of providing a strict framework, the REPowerEU plans should take a more market-oriented and technology-neutral ap proach, provide incentives such as grants and investment support and not get too tied up in the details,” says Korpeinen. “Regulato ry mandates could specify that a certain number of emission-free fuels or materials must be used, as is already the case in the re newable fuels market,” he adds. As for UPM, it is already leading the way when it comes to re newable fuel innovation, positioning them to support customers in sourcing and producing emission-free hydrogen, as well as us ing it to decarbonise industrial processes. “Let’s just set criteria
for what we want to achieve and let’s have markets and tech nology define what is the most efficient way of getting there,” Korpeinen concludes.
On the verge of something big It has been said that change happens gradually and then suddenly. UPM’s
transformation will take one of its longest strides forward in the comingmonths, says President and CEO Jussi Pesonen . O n the verge of something big – those are the words Pesonen uses to describe the company he runs. Firstly, that something big is Finland’s Olkiluoto nuclear power plant unit (OL3), which will increase UPM’s electricity production by almost 50% in one go at a time of exceptionally high market prices. Pulp production capacity will increase even more, by around 55%, when the Paso de los Toros pulp mill in Uruguay begins operations in early 2023. As he prepared to inaugurate the pulp terminal at the Port of Montevideo, Pesonen made no secret of his excitement, saying: “Paso de los Toros is an extremely well-managed project in very challenging circumstances, where the pandemic disrupted the logistics and was a big challenge on the factory site itself. Kudos to the project team.” The opening of a biochemicals refinery in Leuna, Germany is not far away either. In that instance, UPM will not only have more capacity, but a completely new business – unique even on a global scale. But what does the CEO think about the fact that the mainstream news is all about war, the energy crisis, recession, inflation and interest rates? And how does the Biofore strategy work in a world that was turned upside down in an instant?
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