VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed methods and product innovations for processing the most rapidly renewable surface layer of peat instead of using it for energy production. The goal is to develop bio-based composite materials containing peat fiber, for example for the manufacture of consumer products and construction materials, at the same time reducing the use of oil-based raw materials in production.
The advantages of products containing peat fiber are their bio origin, low cost, water resistance, impact strength, excellent fire endurance characteristics and biodegradability.
Through its various projects VTT has developed materials containing thermoplastic and panel-form peat fiber, as well as fiber-suitable preprocessing methods. Milled peat can be used as peat fiber because it contains several peat fractions and preferably long fibers, which are not silt up, so it can function both as filling material and as reinforcing material in composite structures.
The amount of raw material necessary for composite products would equate to a fraction of current peat production, which is a factor in support of its use in ecological products. Composite production is also an alternative to peat burning, and would preserve jobs in the peat industry.
Materials containing peat fiber are suitable for processing with normal plastic processing methods, using compounding, extrusion and injection molding, for example. Currently no company in Finland is producing or exploiting these kinds of peat composite materials.
Material solutions containing peat fiber can be used in construction (boards, molding, profiles, plate structures), product applications in horticulture and in agriculture and forestry (seedling guards, planters, peat-colored wall structures, plant supports), consumer products (golf tees, ornaments), biodegradable packaging, earth-moving (erosion protectors, biodegradable support structures) and funerary products.
VTT currently has three patent applications pending related to peat containing biocomposites.
Development work has been funded partly by the TULI project of the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation Tekes.