Lupine in review: fibres of the future
One of the challenges of global environmental issues is to create new ways for a sustainable future. The lupine is local, and it is a renewable raw material, a resource for a biodegradable product. The project's production procedures make the material compostable after its lifetime and it decomposes easily in nature without any traces of toxic chemicals.
Lupinus nootkatensis is a legume, it has been successful in the reclamation of sterile soil in Iceland since 1945 when it was imported from Alaska. The lupine is an interesting plant for its ability to produce nitrogen, it provides nutrition for itself as well as other plants and is sustainable. Its construction consists of protein, ash, minerals, and cellulose, with lignin as the main cellulose. Because of its nutrition, it can endure harsh climates like the sandy mountains of Iceland, and it can populate the environment easily. Based on these abilities the lupine is spreading out in Iceland, not only to barren areas but also invading moss and other perishable areas in Iceland. The lupine has for several years now been a debate among Icelanders. The subject has evoked lively conversation, most people seem to have a love or hate relationship with it. Some categorise it as an invasive species in the landscape of Iceland, others say it has not ended its role of reclaiming soil in the barren country of Iceland. But could it be an underexploited natural resource?
The lupine fibre material can be produced from stems and leaves as well as the roots of the plant. The material can be quite different in distinct characteristics and appearance depending on the plant parts that are used and production methods. Several different methods can be used in the production process, depending on the desired outcome.
Harvesting time during different stages of the season affects the strength of the product. The colours of the material vary from green, yellow to brown hues. The material’s scent can also vary, depending on the production method and harvesting time. The material’s surface may be varied as well, from spongy to rigid depending on the method of production.
The fibre material is exceptionally light. A fibreboard made from roots and at a size of 100 x 100 x 10 mm, weighs approximately 30 grams. The material is water absorbent but can be coated like any other non-waterproof material. The material’s strength can vary greatly. Compared to other standard tests on similar fibre material the results of the standard flexural tests made during earlier research show that the lupine material can be classified as a low density fibreboard (insulation board) or medium density fibreboard (MDF). Tool techniques and setup is a key step in the material production process and the application can change considerably by the usage of different tool techniques.
The fibre material from the lupine is still in the development process. The aim is to produce a biodegradable product without any additives, which could be used as a building material or packaging product. Research is ongoing to discover the possibilities – a sustainable material made from the lupine plant would be advantageous to the circular economy of Iceland.
The process: Material harvested, decomposed, pressed and dried.
Information submitted by the maker and edited by the Future Materials Bank.
Lupine roots, stems, water
Technology development fund of Rannis