A ALTO UNIVERSIT Y MAGA ZINE 22
Food as an ecological act
Fodder and fabric from cellulose
This issue looks at solutions for sustainable development.
No single solution to water shortage, but many might do the trick.
20 Mika Anttonen:
Energy entrepreneur and visionary realist.
34 Food as ecological action: Crickets, roach and mushrooms have the flavour of a fresh attitude.
12 Turning off the tap?
5 Openings – Tuija Pulkkinen 6 Now – Minor news, major issues 10 Visiting – Pilvi Takala 11 Cooperation – Airport exhibition 12 Theme – Tackling water shortages 18 Theme – Minna Halme 20 Who – Mika Anttonen 24 Teaching – The Creative Sustainability programme 25 Wow – VR Stranded 26 On science – Fodder from wood 30 On science – Fabric from wood 32 Campus – A vision of landscape architecture 34 Theme – Taste of an attitude change 40 On science – Recycling rare metals 42 On science – Endless blockchains 43 In-house – Aalto University Junior 44 Wow – FoodAfrica 46 Doctoral theses – Juuso Lindgren, Maija Tammi, Tommi Kauppinen 48 Everyday choices – Jouni Juntunen 50 Column – Dear climate change
The pictures on the covers and pages 26-27 are from the book Lost in the Wood(s). Editors: Pirjo Kääriäinen and Liisa Tervinen. Photos: Eeva Suorlahti. Graphic design: Safa Hovinen. Publisher: Aalto ARTS Books. Named among the Most Beautiful Books of The Year 2017 for its covers.
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On the job
ECOLOGICAL THINKING and above
all recycling are significant material resources for me as an illustrator. I strive to evoke the sense of a specific material with the aid of another; an old sweet wrapper can, for example, become both a fish scale and a brain. Sometimes I choose to not make my job any harder than it already is, so if I am to, say, illustrate a used coffee filter, then I don’t actually need to do anything but brew up a cup and scan the spent goods. Ida-Maria Wikström
AS A PHOTOGRAPHER, I strive to consider
sustainable solutions. I take public transport or cycle to shoot locations whenever possible, for example. The western expansion of the metro just made my commute a lot more ecological. The key support pillar of Finnish working life, coffee, is also an important factor – when I have the choice, I always buy fair trade coffee. I believe that, on the individual level, this is what the promotion of sustainable development consists of, small everyday choices. Mikko Raskinen
PUBLISHER Aalto University, Communications EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Jaakko Salavuo MANAGING EDITOR Paula Haikarainen AD/PHOTO EDITOR Liisa Seppo, Otavamedia OMA Oy
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Terhi Hautamäki, Riikka Heinonen, Timo Hämäläinen, Minna Hölttä, Annukka Jyrämä, Jaakko Kahilaniemi, Tea Kalska, Jutta Kasslin, Krista Kinnunen, Veera Konsti, Heidi Konttinen, David Lewis, Meri Löyttyniemi, Anna Muchenikova, Leeni Peltonen, Miikka Pirinen, Eeva Pitkälä, Tiiu Pohjolainen, Aleksi Poutanen, Marjukka Puolakka, Outi Puukko, Laura Siira, Laura Silvanto, Noora Stapleton, Eeva Suorlahti, Mikko Raskinen, Maija Tammi, Anne Tapanainen, Matti Tanskanen, Ville Valkeisenmäki, Anu Vallinkoski, Olli Varis, Ida-Maria Wikström COVER Eeva Suorlahti TRANSLATION Ned Kelly Coogan ADDRESS PO Box 18 000, FI-00076 Aalto TELEPHONE +358 9 470 01 ONLINE aalto.fi, aalto.fi/magazine EMAIL email@example.com CHANGE OF ADDRESS firstname.lastname@example.org PRINTING COMISSIONED BY Unigrafia Oy PREPRESS Aste Helsinki Oy PRINTING Libris Oy, 2018 PAPER Edixion 250 g/m2 (covers) & 120 g/m2 (pages) PRINT RUN 4 500 (English edition), 28 500 (Finnish edition) ISSN 2489-6772 print ISSN 2489-6780 online
CONTRIBUTORS IN THIS ISSUE Marina Baranova, Anna Berg, Glen Forde, Sara Gottschalk, Anni Hanén,
Painotuotteet 4041 0014
Sustainable solutions call for fresh thinking become a part of our everyday experience – climate change, water, energy, population growth and ageing are frequently mentioned in problem-derived headlines. Recipients are left with a choice: view these items like sure signs of coming collapse or just close their eyes from inconvenient truths. But both approaches are past their sell-by date – there are way too many people to be supported by a huntergatherer economy, and the unpleasant consequences have already arrived. We here at Aalto want, through our actions and activities, to show that there is a third option: to actively seek out fresh solutions and prepare for even the most radical changes. In the long run, the solutions for sustainable development will not come from the gradual tweaking of existing operating models, what we need instead is thinking of an entirely new kind. Conducting profound basic research and combining knowledge in an interdisciplinary manner is how such thinking emerges. We study materials and energy ideas that conserve natural resources as well as seek out solutions associated with individual wellbeing and the urban environment. For its part, digitalisation offers many opportunities and solutions, while also itself requiring energy- and materialsefficient implementation methods. New solutions quickly go on to be tested on the markets via the entrepreneurial community on our campus. Sustainable development has become a part of international debate especially through the UN’s Agenda 2030 action programme. Finland was one of the first countries to publish a national strategy for sustainable development. It provides a good foundation for renewal in the business sector: the winners will be found amongst those, whose business
NEWS OF CATASTROPHIC EVENTS has
operations are built on sustainable solutions. A market reality is that individual consumers and global corporations alike more and more often make their decisions with ethical and environmental considerations in mind. We have signed the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals Accord as the first Finnish university. All of our activities from the construction of facilities to the provision of student meals take account of this commitment. We educate well-informed experts who consider sustainable development in all of their
actions and are prepared to change their habits and consumption patterns. Our new network, Aalto Sustain ability Hub, boosts cooperation between researchers of various fields and our partners. Climate change and natural resource scarcity, for example, are challenges of such complexity that no one can solve them alone. We want to be part of the solution, not the problem. Tuija Pulkkinen
Vice President, Research and Innovation
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Väre and A Bloc nearing completion VÄRE, A NEW BUILDING created for
tion with students and personnel. The interior is designed to be clear, fresh and industrial in a way that releases creativity. The varied spaces inspire encounters and interdisciplinary cooperation.
Väre has the highest energy rating and only uses renewable energy. In addition to solar power, the building utilises geothermal energy, for which some 70 wells have been dug. The kilometres-deep wells provide heat and help cool the building down when necessary. The total floor area of the building is some 33,000 square metres, of which
more than 7,000 square metres is dedicated to commercial activities. The A Bloc centre houses shops, restaurants and cafes, and it is connected to the Aalto University metro station. The new School of Business building will be completed in the same block later this year. Together, the two new buildings will form a substantial part of Otaniemi’s new centre. Väre was designed by Verstas Arkkitehdit with Jussi Palva serving as chief designer. The School of Arts, Design and Architecture will move to the new premises during the spring and summer. The opening of Väre will be celebrated as part of the Aalto Day One event on 5 September.
the School of Arts, Design and Architecture, will open its doors in summer 2018. Located at the heart of the Otaniemi campus, the building also houses the A Bloc metro centre with its commercial services. Designed with a user-oriented approach and according to the principles of sustainable development, Väre will bring all of the School’s departments under the same roof. Up to now, the departments have been scattered around the different campuses of Aalto University. New working methods and space use solutions have been designed in coopera-
ACCORDING TO A RECENT doctoral
dissertation, emotional states affect the operation of the entire brain instead of individual emotions being localised only to specific regions. “From the biological point of view, an emotion is a state of the entire brain at a given moment. For example, the brain may interpret certain action models, memories and bodily changes all together as anger,” explains Doctor of Science in Technology Heini Saarimäki. 6 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 22
Saarimäki and her colleagues discovered that brain maps associated with basic emotions – such as anger, happiness, sadness, fear, surprise and disgust – were, to an extent, similar in different people. Basic emotions seem to be at least partially biologically determined, whereas social emotions – gratitude, contempt, pride and shame – are, to a greater extent, built on experience. In the case of social emotions, differences in brain activity between people are greater than in basic emotions.
Love and fear are visible across the brain
Aalto Sustainability Day invites you to join
HYDROPOWER IS COMMONLY considered as a clean
source of energy to fuel economic growth in Southeast Asia. A recent study led by Aalto University finds that hydropower isn’t always as climate friendly as thought in the basin area of the region’s largest river, the Mekong. The median greenhouse gas (GHG) emission of hydropower was estimated to be 26 kg CO2e/MWh over a 100-year lifetime, which is within the range of other renewable energy sources. However, nearly 20% of the hydropower reservoirs had higher emissions than other renewable energy sources, and in several cases the emissions equalled those from fossil fuel energy sources. Economies are growing rapidly in the Mekong River Basin and hydropower is broadly seen as a viable source for satisfying increasing energy demands. However, the extensiveness of hydropower development has raised concerns about ecological sustainability, particularly in the case of fisheries. Less attention is paid to the potential climate impacts of hydropower. Emissions originate mainly from the degradation of organic matter in the reservoir, but also from dam construction. “Hydropower-related emissions started occurring in the Mekong in the mid-1960s and increased considerably in the early 2000s. Currently, their estimated amount is around 15 million tonnes of CO2e per year, which is more than the total emissions of all sectors in Lao PDR in 2013,” says the study’s leader Dr. Timo Räsänen. The emissions of future hydropower projects can be reduced by designing and choosing the location appropriately. In addition, emissions can be mitigated by carefully removing the vegetation from the reservoir area before it is filled, and by minimising the amount of organic material entering the reservoir from the catchment.
THIS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT event will bring
together experts and new hands in science, technology, art and business at Dipoli on 18 May. “The day’s theme is Mayday, mayday, which also serves as a call to get involved. Today’s world is facing unprecedented challenges to economically and socially sustainable development that also create opportunities for innovation,” says Professor Minna Halme. Participants can look forward to interesting perspectives on themes associated with sustainability from researchers and decision-makers alike. Attendees include former EU Commissioner for Environment Dr. Janez Potočnik, MEP and the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the circular economy Sirpa Pietikäinen and Cargotec Board of Directors Chairman Ilkka Herlin, who is also a co-founder of the Baltic Sea Action Group foundation. Student coursework exhibits, designed by interdisciplinary teams in cooperation with stakeholders, will also be on display. The event, which is free of charge and open to the general public, serves as the official launch for the activities of the multidisciplinary sustainable development research network Aalto Sustainability Hub. • aalto.fi/en/about/sustainability/mayday
Hydropower – not always so climate friendly
Ceremonial week culminates in the Conferment of Doctoral Degrees
AALTO UNIVERSITY’S Ceremonial Conferment of Doc-
Reservoir of the Nam Theun 2 hydropower project in Lao PDR. It is one of the few reservoirs in the Mekong Region for which GHG emission measurements have been performed. The reservoir has a surface area of 450 km2 and the power station’s capacity is 1,075 MW.
toral Degrees in the technological disciplines will take place on the 15th of June at the traditional Dipoli, which recently underwent a magnificent restoration. All holders of a doctoral degree from the technological schools and the School of Arts, Design and Architecture who defended their thesis in the period 1 July 2016 – 25 May 2018 and completed their doctorate by no later than the 31st of May 2018 will be invited to the ceremony. The promotion will cap the common ceremonial week, which launches with a diploma conferral event for students graduating with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree from the various Aalto schools. All graduates, their family members and alumni are welcomed to the Graduation Party celebration on the 13th of June. The ceremonial week also includes programme items open to the public, such as exhibitions and a panel discussion for honorary doctorate holders. • ceremonyweek.aalto.fi
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PROFESSOR OF PRACTICE in Concrete Technology
Jouni Punkki debuted as a sculptor with his first private exhibition at Helsinkiâ€™s Galleria Saima in April 2018. The material of the Toros & Torsos sculptures is, of course, concrete.
Marina Baranova, Sara Gottschalk
student views on Finnish sauna culture. The objects on display showcase how designers from different cultures see the experience and aesthetics of the sauna. The exhibition was on display at the National Museum of Finland in September 2017 and in Dipoli in February 2018. The Hiljaa stove was designed by Sara Gottschalk.
THE EXHIBITION Forms from Steam presented design
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The Innovative Marine Technology for Challenging Seas exhibition examined the development and future of seafaring. On display were ten scale model ships representing designs from the 1950s to the present day as well as recent Aalto University marine technology research projects. The exhibition was staged in Dipoli in March-April 2018 and it was produced in cooperation with the Maritime Museum of Finland and the National Museum of Finland.
ÄMMÄNPÄRE IS an environmental
art work, which the Municipality of Suomussalmi commissioned from artist Aleksi Jaakkola to mark its 150th jubilee year. It was revealed on New Year’s Eve 2017 at Jätkänpuisto Park. The idea for the work has its roots in an Aalto workshop, which Jaakkola participated in as an art student. The steel structure shines a light in two directions that reacts with changes in humidity and reflective surfaces.
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An artist with an actual job
Pilvi Takala, who is known for her video art, is the School of Business’ first artist-in-residence. How did an artist wind up at the Department of Marketing? It was the turn of the School of Business to host a visiting artist as part of Aalto University’s Artist in Residence programme. I didn’t choose the place myself, I was asked to come here. I don’t see a huge difference between the work of a researcher and my own work. Researchers study subjects that interest them and produce an end result. I myself work in much the same way. Creativity is a hot topic. I wonder whether what I do as an artist is, in the final analysis, actually much more creative than what researchers do. I think maybe not. Perhaps the Department will notice that I’m a boring, ordinary and organised person. Your residency commenced at the turn of the year. How did your work start? I was given an office. I read some of the latest research papers published by the Department of Marketing, choosing them mostly on the basis of whichever piqued my interest. Assistant Professor Henri Weijo gave me some reading material about replacing 10 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 22
Text: Tiiu Pohjolainen Photo: Matti Tanskanen
Has anything surprised you? The most exotic thing so far has been that this is a real job. It provides a salary What can we look forward to? and occupational health care. An artist’s The residency lasts a year. The end job description rarely includes actually result will be an artistically ambitious going to work. project produced in collaboration with Artistry of course also includes the School. a lot of office work, but many things I reckon there’s a couple of options. can be taken care of by an assistant. The final piece might deal with this place. But here I’ve noticed the existence of I can also imagine studying some other all kinds of obscure tinkering, extra place or community together with the effort that’s only related to going to work. Department’s researchers. It’s actually really fun and interesting, I purposely didn’t give advance thought I’m by no means complaining. to what I’d do during this year. That would have been foolish, in my opinion. Your work is on display After all, I don’t know this environment, around the world. Where next? I’m not familiar with the research they My exhibition opens at Kiasma, Helsinki, conduct here. My own method is close in August. It will present works from my to ethnographic research, which they do existing catalogue and a few new pieces. here as well, but I’m sure our working It’s possible that the work created in practices differ in some ways. association with this residency will also My most important research instruwind up in Kiasma at a later date. Almost ment is being present. all of the works in this exhibition relate If I’m interested in a specific phenom- to working or the work community in ena or community, I’ll go there. Mostly some way. I work in a way that has me on site, An exhibition of my work is also openlistening and waiting. Right now, I’m ing at London’s Carlos/Ishikawa gallery going through the listening phase here next summer. • at the School of Business. dryish research text on consumer culture theory with more creative expressions.
Exhibition of ecological art introduces the future of materials A student exhibition at Helsinki Airport showcases possible new biomaterials. Text: Krista Kinnunen Photo: Eeva Suorlahti BIOPLASTIC COMPONENTS from chicken
feathers, eating utensils from potato and nanocellulose, building modules from coffee grounds, seaweed and calcium carbonate. Textiles from dog fur and carboxy methyl cellulose. Synthetic leathers from fruit peel waste, gelatine, glycerine and water. These are some of the items on display at the airport in the eco-art exhibition From Nature to Future, for which Aalto design students explored possible materials for a more sustainable future. The exhibition showcases visionary concepts for developing natural raw materials into, among other things, everyday use objects. The materials used are all renewable resources, such as wood-based cellulose and various plants as well as biowaste like food scraps and feathers. The students have themselves gathered a large
share of the materials and processed them in many ways before working them into a new form. The works were created for a course, which is part of Aalto University’s CHEMARTS programme that combines biomaterials research and creative design with the aim of inspiring students and researchers to create and experiment with new, creative solutions for utilising cellulose and other biomaterials.
Mission: save the planet
The works on display are experiments, not products – at least not yet. The ideas that stem from these experiments may, however, play a key role when finding solutions to the challenges of sustainable development. A broader question forms the background to this: how can we replace mate-
rials, especially cotton and plastics, that burden the environment? One solution could involve a wood-derived raw material, cellulose, which may become the super-material of the future. CHEMARTS courses have for years focused on new types of biodegradable materials and the testing of experimental manufacturing technologies. The programme has yielded a lot of fresh thinking and prototypes as well as product concepts and ideas. “We are involved in the development of new materials and technologies that will enable a more sustainable living environment in both Finland and on the global scale,” says Professor Pirjo Kääriäinen, who coordinates CHEMARTS cooperation. •
From Nature to Future • The exhibition is part of a collaborative art project between Aalto University and airport operator Finavia that will see three exhibitions staged at Helsinki Airport over the next three years. • The works on display combine materials experiments with art. They were created using renewable raw materials. • The exhibition will be on display until the end of 2018 in baggage hall 2B, where passengers arriving from Asia, USA and other non-Schengen countries pick up their luggage.
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Turning off the tap
Water crises around the world threaten food production, drive people from their homes and cause wars. There is no single solution to the shortage of water, but applying several might get the job done. Text: Terhi HautamĂ¤ki Photos: Olli Varis VIDEO: Aaltoâ€™s doctoral education programme in water science emphasises collaboration. http://bit.ly/2FOSRAs
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Dam reservoir in Syria.
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ONLY THREE PERCENT IS FRESHWATER
n May 2018, South Africa’s Cape Town may become the first city in the world to fully shut off its water. The taps running dry for almost four million people would be a drastic consequence of population growth, uncontrolled water consumption and drought in recent years. Residents would have to collect their small daily water allowances from distribution points. And, if you believe the forecasts, there’s much worse to come. Climate change and population growth will make water shortages more common all over the world. Estimates say that by 2040, half of the global population will live in regions with severe water shortages. Water is becoming blue gold. It already is like that in many countries. According to Unesco, Saudi Arabia already uses 25% of the oil and gas it produces to power desalination facilities that turn seawater into potable water. The cost and the amount of emissions are enormous. Water is a matter of life and death. One half of the world’s hospital beds are taken by people who have fallen ill because of unclean drinking water. Water shortages drive people from their homes and lead to conflicts. So why is it so difficult to solve the water crisis?
Many of the world’s major development trends also involve the issue of water. China’s eagerness to purchase land in Africa is partly driven by the goal of outsourcing food production as well as land and water use beyond its national boundaries. Control of limited water resources is also one way to prop up power structures. Water is a key question in urban growth as well. The world’s growing population is flocking into cities, and this will lead to chaos unless functioning water and waste management processes are put in place. The construction of proper infrastructure calls for both capital and political will.
A chance to achieve real results
There’s been no shortage of motivation, says Olli Varis, Professor of Water Resource Management at Aalto University, about his work. Varis is an internationally recognised expert in the sustainable utilisation of water resources and other global water issues. For decades, he has engaged in practiceoriented research work especially in and around the Mekong River Basin in Southeast Asia. Currently, Varis is taking part in, among other things, Aalto University’s New Global project, which seeks to identify innovations that could tackle the world’s major challenges. The issue of water relates to everything If visitors from outer space were to examine the Earth, His motivation is explained not only by the issue’s importance, but also by the possibility of achieving real they might be surprised to hear that our blue planet suffers from water shortages. But the vast majority of results. the fluid that covers our ball of dirt is seawater, which “In East and Southeast Asia, you get the feeling that your work brings added value and benefits. Societies isn’t much use to us. Only three percent is freshwater, which can be drunk and used to irrigate crops. have the capacity and also a burning desire to receive new knowledge. For a researcher, it is motivating to Even this small percentage would be plenty for humanity if it were evenly distributed across the differhave someone listen to what you have to say,” Varis says. ent regions, if the distribution network functioned effecIn Southeast Asia, it is quite evident that water shorttively and reliably in all places, if rain fell on the fields in ages are about more than just a concrete sparsity of appropriate amounts and at the right times, if water were water. The floods that afflict low-lying areas also lead consumed sustainably without polluting reservoirs, and to crises when polluted water mixes with cleaner water if efforts were also being taken to curb climate change, resources or when torrential downpours wash the fields which makes droughts and storms worse. of their nutrients. It is easy to also see how big a role water plays in ecoThat’s a lot of ifs. The water question is difficult because it does not involve a single problem, which nomic growth and urban development when examining East and Southeast Asia. could be solved by, for example, adopting one new technology. “Societies differ quite markedly from one another in Instead, it consists of a bunch of different challenges their exposure to problems. The biggest problem for associated with, among other things, population growth, the rapidly developing Asian countries is, in my opinion, how to not ruin their environment when economic climate conditions, ecosystem health, industrial and growth is rapid and population densities preposterous,” agricultural resource utilisation as well as sanitation and hygiene. Varis says. 14 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 22
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FOOD WASTE MEANS MASSIVE WASTE OF WATER Research data aids administration
One way to solve water crises is to generate research data. Large data banks on, for example, the behaviour, water quality and agricultural connections of the Mekong River as well as its impact on urban water supply have had a tangible positive impact on decision-making in various countries and areas. Scientific knowledge, such as the modelling of a river’s behaviour, can help prevent crises. The adverse effects of floods can be reduced with flood warning systems. Disputes regarding water use are easier to resolve when researched facts can be brought to the negotiation table. Water flows without regard for national borders. The Mekong meanders through the territories of six countries. The more populations grow and urbanisation progresses, the harder the strain and use pressure on the world’s water systems. Whether a country is located at the headwaters or downstream of a river can easily become an issue of crucial importance. “China and Laos are building lots of dams and hydropower in the upper reaches of the Mekong, which makes the countries lying downstream unhappy. And disputes are not limited to just the national level. Farmers in all countries can take one side and resist dams, while urban dwellers and industries that need affordable electricity will consider the building of dams quite desirable,” Varis says to describe the complexity of disputes.
Water wars and diplomacy
Some threat projections are dotted with water wars. If water shortages get worse, it may be that people will be ready to take up arms and violently compete for vital resources. Simmering disputes are ever-present. Right now, at least twenty conflicts that relate to the utilisation of water resources are ongoing around the world. Egypt is quarrelling with Ethiopia about a major dam project on the Nile, while a couple of years ago India shut down trade crossing the Nepalese border partially because of reasons associated with water resource utilisation. For this, we need water diplomacy, says Senior Water Adviser Antti Rautavaara from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Water diplomacy has been practised around the world for 16 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 22
ages. Finns have been actively involved in peace mediation and the negotiation of UN transboundary water treaties. Antti Rautavaara’s work includes advising the various departments of the Foreign Ministry about water issues and providing support for Finnish foreign affairs from the perspective of water supply. His remit is expansive. International water disputes, building lavatories in poor villages and water shortages caused by natural phenomena are some of the varied topics he deals with. “Sometimes it makes most sense to prevent crises in collaboration with NGOs, sometimes through research cooperation and at other times by playing to role of mediator in a foreign policy question,” Rautavaara says. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is also responsible for Finland’s development cooperation, which involves solving issues like water supply in the world’s poorer regions. “Just over the last year and a half, we have provided a water supply for 1.3 million people and latrines for more than five million. This is about more than just comfort, as it enables hundreds of thousands of young children to survive instead of getting killed by diseases caused by poor hygiene,” Rautavaara points out.
The taps being turned off in Cape Town gives rise to the question: where can we find more water now? Espoo-based Solar Water Solutions is ready to provide one possible solution. The company has cooperated with Aalto University’s Department of Energy Technology to develop water purification technology. Drought-stricken South Africa is one target for the firm while it seeks out initial business opportunities. CEO Antti Pohjola says that the devices manufactured by the company are the world’s first to make seawater potable using only solar power. There’s lots of interest in solar power elsewhere, too, but it is difficult to create the steady pressure required for the treatment process with it, which is why the large desalination plants in the Middle East, for example, still burn fossil fuels. At its Espoo facility, Solar Water Solutions manufactures smaller treatment devices suitable for producing 1–250 cubic metres of water per day. The company makes larger, container-type devices that can supply drinking water for a village, school or hotel, for example, while its smaller consumer products can, among other things, be used to make potable water in the archipelago.
Even flood water can be purified
Water technology is a hot sector, but most solutions are still small-scale and suitable for limited use. However, Antti Pohjola believes that there will be plenty of demand for small-scale water production as well as ancillary and backup water supply systems. “In Africa especially, water supply is to a very large extent based on distributed solutions,” he says. Solar Water Solutions utilises a method called reverse osmosis. Put simply, the water passes through membranes that contain holes large enough to allow water molecules to pass, but which impurities like bacteria and salt cannot penetrate. The same technique can be used to, for example, make well water or dirty flood water drinkable. The growth prospects are so promising that the company is interested in recruiting students graduating from, for example, Aalto University into its production and international sales functions. Their innovation is attracting interest in the Middle East as well. The company was one of three finalists in a United Arab Emirates design competition, which sought solutions for seawater desalination. Price is a major obstacle for the proliferation of the company’s wares. Smaller consumer products cost about €3,000, but the larger devices can go as high as €100,000. Pohjola says that, over 15 years, the price of a water litre produced with one of their large devices comes to just 0.1 cent, so the investment pays for itself. However, many parties in the developing countries cannot access sufficient funding, and as NGOs, for example, typically operate with very tight budgets, the company is also developing a leasing option.
Food choices matter
Should you take shorter showers? We here in Finland have plenty of water, so a lot of people wonder how any water crisis could affect them. Professor Olli Varis says how the Finns splash about with their water is of no consequence to the world’s water situation as long as we take care of our own water supply. It is, of course, important to use hot water sparingly to conserve energy. By contrast, we contribute quite clearly to the global water shortage as consumers of food and goods. A significant portion of our water consumption takes place outside of Finland, out of our own sight. Everything that is produced for us has a water footprint. When you drink a cup of coffee, you’re effectively also gulping down a 150 litres of water used to produce the coffee beans. Meat production consumes many times more water than plant cultivation, while rice is wasteful when compared to potatoes. Food waste also involves squandering water on a massive scale. Agriculture accounts for 70% of freshwater consumption, and a third of the food produced winds up as wastage on fields, in storage, transport, shops or households. In Africa, agriculture is often inefficient, while in the West, waste mostly happens at the other end of the chain. Estimates say that eliminating half of the world’s food waste by 2030 would provide food for more than a billion people, thus making the utilisation of precious water much more efficient. This provides food for thought, as the numbers match the projected growth in the global population over the same period. •
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Fighting the flames
– better together The fundamental questions of sustainable development are integral in our business research as well, says Professor Minna Halme. Text: Eeva Pitkälä Photo: Veera Konsti
AT THE END of 2017, more than 15,000
scientists from 184 countries issued a chilling warning to humanity: the amount of available freshwater has reduced by 26% over the last 25 years. The polluted and anoxic areas of the oceans have expanded by up to 75%. Almost 300 million hectares of forest have been converted to agricultural use. Population growth is up 35%. Carbon dioxide emissions and the average temperature are growing constantly. The numbers of different animal species are down by up to 58%. When, on top of this, you hear that some four billion people survive on less than five euro a day, that two to three billion are expected to rise to the consuming middle classes by the end of the 2030s, and that the number of urban residents is going to increase manifold, as will energy consumption, natural resource exploitation and climate-burdening emissions, you start to pay close attention to what Professor Minna Halme has to say. She is Professor of Sustainability Management at Aalto University and a Finnish pioneer in researching sustainable innovations. Halme actively promotes the objectives of her research area also in practice. “Cooperation is what’s missing from this equation. Picture a burning house, where someone is trying to put out 18 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 22
the fire with a squirt gun, somebody else with a toy bucket and a third person using a shovel, all the while trying to convince onlookers and the building’s residents about the superiority of their own method,” she says. “Our attitude towards sustainable development is like this burning house dilemma. We are aware of the threats of climate change, species extinction, poverty and inequality, but we are trying to resolve them using narrow and insufficient means. One person believes that sustainable development will be achieved if we just invent a carbon-dioxide-free technology for burning wood. Another will swear by a financial solution: all we need is a system where the ecological externalities are included in prices. I, however, hold the view that the complex challenges require collaboration and very serious and involved multidisciplinary research that has a societal impact.”
Market of scarcity
Sustainable business is about new types of ecologically-efficient service concepts, which don’t so much aim to produce specific products as to examine the needs that target them. “We create and research ecologicallyefficient and sustainable operating models, but not products per se. Our goal is to
get the teams fighting the Earth-destroying fires to cooperate with a greater objective in mind: find out what needs to be done so that fires don’t get started in the first place,” Halme says. The story of the common light bulb provides a good example of ecologically sustainable service provision. Back in the day, light bulb manufacturers discovered that their profits increased when they shortened the service life of their bulbs. But today’s pioneering illumination vendor sells light instead of bulbs! The service concept guarantees that the customer has access to functioning lamps. And when the lamps needed to produce light are durable, the vendor also benefits. This is a win-win scenario – with nature winning as well.
The New Global project
Halme says new types of ideas are needed especially for low-resource, but developing markets. This is what she has been working towards in recent years in the New Global project, which brings together four schools of Aalto University. The project researches business-based and poverty-reducing water, energy and housing innovations that are suited to resource-poor environments. This project, which has opened doors for Finnish companies, has also developed new ways to conserve nature – and natu-
The three theses of Minna Halme
The ecological and social problems of sustainable development can be viewed as sources of innovation. By radically renewing their products and business models, companies can contribute to the solving of these problems and thus discover new markets.
2 The circular economy sees the world as a system in which humanity and nature intertwine in countless ways and where systemically balanced solutions should be promoted.
3 Frugal innovations empower individuals and communities, create jobs and help ease poverty.
ral resources – particularly in Tanzania, Kenya and India. Among other things, Minna Halme’s research group has provided assistance to a project by Ahlstrom, a Finnish company which manufactures fibre materials in Tanzania, that focuses on water purification. The Nanomaji filtration solution is based on a nanotech-filter and requires no electricity. For households, it is cheaper than boiling water and does not create health-detrimental particulate emissions like the current practice of boiling water using charcoal fuel. For its part, Finnish company Slidetech has frugalised its saws to the needs of Tanzania’s small-scale forest industry. Slidetech’s equipment enables an 80% increase in plank yield from logs when compared to the poor-quality Ding Dong sawblades commonly used in Tanzania. Indian solar power company Boond has cooperated with Aalto energy researchers and the New Global project to develop intelligent solar energy metering for poor villages in India. “The innovations of scarcity, so-called frugal innovations, get started in situations where there is little money and materials. They are resource-efficient, simple, easy to use, durable, empower individuals and communities, create jobs and help alleviate poverty,” Halme describes.
A good example of an innovation of scarcity is the Nokia 1110, which only performs the original basic functions of a mobile phone. It is in great demand on the African markets. Many companies around the world are seeking new markets, and many firms already operating in the developing countries want to improve their business practices in a more sustainable direction. Several European countries are ahead of us in this process. In Finland, debate concerning the role business can play in alleviating poverty has, according to Halme, only gotten started in the last few years. With this in mind, Halme and Sini Suomalainen have co-authored a guide that instructs Finnish companies on how to innovate for the developing markets.
Hub helps grasp totalities
At the start of 2018, Aalto University established the Aalto Sustainability Hub to promote and enhance the effectiveness of interdisciplinary research and teaching in sustainable development. More than 50 professors and researchers participated in the creation of the Hub, which now brings together some 300 Aalto experts whose work involves sustainable development. Professor Halme serves as its director. The Hub approaches the challenge of a sustainable society through innova-
tion and entrepreneurship. One goal is to integrate responsibility into all of the University’s teaching by 2020. Key pillars of the Hub’s activities are the circular economy, creating things together and using the campus as a living laboratory. “We emphasise producing solutions in an inter- and supradisciplinary manner: through cooperation between researchers of different fields and in collaboration with other societal actors.” Among other things, Hub researchers consider the reuse of materials, create solutions for producing clean water in conditions of scarcity and explore how poverty could be alleviated as well as what it would actually mean to create an economy that aims for this in conjunction with, for example, climate funding. The Otaniemi campus serves as a living lab for researching sustainable energy solutions. Some of the buildings utilise geothermal heat. The NPharvest water research project studies the recovery of nutrients from fluid waste. It utilises the water and environmental technology lab’s expertise and equipment in the recovery of phosphorous – among others things by installing separating toilets at some campus properties. •
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Visionary realist Mika Anttonen, a billionaire who made his fortune by selling fuel and refining oil, spends a lot of time, money and energy in search of alternatives to existing energy solutions. Anttonen is not interested in fluffy fantasies, effective methods that are also affordable for the world’s poorest citizens are what he’s looking for. Text: Leeni Peltonen Photos: Aleksi Poutanen
ed and yellow, the brand colours of St1, repeat everywhere at the company’s head office in the Pitäjänmäki district of Helsinki. The colours are also prominent in a drawing that depicts the company’s strategy. It shows oil barrels, an oil refinery and tanker trucks, but also bold visions of renewable energy innovation, waste utilisation, geothermal heat collection, carbon sinks – with the values of the Nordic welfare state standing behind all of this. “We make our money from fossil fuels, but invest in renewable energy solutions,” says the company’s founder and Chairman Mika Anttonen. Anttonen has a Master’s degree in engineering, and he started his career working in crude oil trading at Neste Corporation. Anttonen made his fortune, which now sees him ranked as one of Finland’s and even the world’s richest people, in the filling station and oil refining businesses. His company started from almost scratch to become one of the biggest players in the Nordic energy sector. The founder now focuses on corporate strategy and innovation in particular;
dressed in jeans and a sweater, he speaks a lot and with enthusiasm. Words like responsibility and society are repeated often. “I is a bad pronoun. We is much better,” he sums up. The following presents his six theses regarding energy and climate issues.
Anttonen envisions a Finland and a prosperous Europe that are small, although operationally effective – and hence responsible – actors. The big picture is global. He emphasises that raising women’s level of education is the most important strategic goal, as it reduces population growth. The more the population grows, the more mouths there are to feed – adding to the strain on our shared planet. Food production consumes energy in every stage of the process, from the field to to the kitchen table. “Finnish education is our biggest export advantage. Providing girls and women in developing nations with a better education would be the most significant climate action,” Anttonen says. AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 22 \ 21
PLANTING 500 HECTARES OF FOREST ON DISUSED MOROCCAN LAND Affordable also to the poor
Globalisation challenges us to consider solutions, which may not, in the short term, comply with Finland’s current policies. Anttonen says Finnish debate is often elitist. He raises electric cars as an example. He says the vast majority of the population – in Finland, too – will not be able to afford them. The environmental benefit calculations of electric cars are based on the assumption that the electricity they consume is clean, which is often not the case. Furthermore, the scale is wrong. “It’s very marginal with respect to the climate debate. The majority of people all over the world always buy used cars.” Anttonen calculates that the use of electric cars would, at most, lead to a small reduction in the growth of oil consumption, but not in overall consumption.
Consumption must fall
Anttonen thinks it’s obvious that the way of life we prosperous Westerners have adopted cannot go on. He says short flights should be banned on routes that are also covered by a rail connection. This would mean an end to flying from Paris to Brussels, for example. Cars could also be built in a way that prevents them from being driven any faster than speed limits allow. There are many ways to reduce oil consumption, but the most important one is societal regulation, i.e. legislation. Anttonen advocates restrictions to the refining of crude oil, even though he himself is at the very heart of the business. “We’d have to come up with substitutes if restrictions were placed on fossil fuel use. Change is not progressing fast enough through reliance on alternative methods like emissions trading.”
Bioenergy and solar power alone are not enough
St1 has been investing in the refining of alternative energy forms for years already. Among other things, it uses household biowaste and food industry overflows as raw material for bioethanol. 22 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 22
Next, it will start using sawdust. But even this is not enough. “We’d have to scour the whole world if we wanted to collect enough biowaste to solve the fuel demand problem. The collection and use of Chinese frying grease has already been tested, but it’s not very efficient economically.” Anttonen says that solar power is clean, but large-scale storage remains an unsolved problem. The greatest demand for electricity exists in cold and dark places, meaning that a kilowatt hour would be much too expensive even if storage and transmission could be worked out.
Let’s harvest the earth’s heat
One of Mika Anttonen’s wilder experiments is currently ongoing in Otaniemi. The idea of this geothermal heat collection project is to harvest clean thermal energy from the depths of the earth. Two holes seven kilometres deep will be drilled into the earth’s crust. Water will be pumped in through one. It will be heated geothermally and then, via the other hole, rise to the surface where the heat is collected and fed into the district heating network. “The project has run into many difficulties; drilling has been harder than we expected, for example. One hole has now reached a depth of 5.7 kilometres, the other 3.3 kilometres. We’ll start pumping water in through the other hole this spring, and then we’ll see how the water behaves,” he says. Anttonen considers the collection of heat bound in the earth as the most sensible form of thermal energy. “Why burn anything to source heat, when the earth is full of thermal energy?”
How about building carbon sinks in Africa?
His most exciting vision is only getting started, however. Anttonen’s idea is to grow forests to serve as carbon sinks by binding atmospheric carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. Morocco was selected to host the trial area, and Anttonen intends to plant a 500-hectare forest on disused land there.
Water for irrigation will be collected through solar powered seawater desalination – but the water will first benefit locals in the form of drinking water, with only used water going towards the irrigation of the forest. And what will St1 get out of all this? “That the impact of a carbon sink like this counts towards our obligations is enough for us. The carbon dioxide balance can be measured with precision using state-of-the-art technology developed by the Finnish Meteorological Institute.” Mika Anttonen wants to demonstrate in practice that the system works, and then turn it into a business. And all other benefits will flow to local people on the continent that is set to suffer the greatest ill effects of climate change. •
• Mika Anttonen (b. 1966) is a Finnish energy sector entrepreneur. He relinquished his operative duties a decade ago and now serves as St1 Corporation’s principal owner and the Chair of the Board of Directors. • Started his career as a crude oil trader with Neste, where he eventually ascended to the head of the trading function. Anttonen established his own firm in 1996 and acquired the St1 chain in 2000. He later also purchased the Esso and Shell filling stations in Finland. • One of four Finnish people with estimated assets exceeding one billion euro. Ranked 1,468th on the Forbes global billionaire list. • Graduated with a Master’s degree in energy technology engineering from the Helsinki University of Technology in 1992. Named Alumnus of the Year by Aalto University’s School of Engineering in 2016. • Married with three children. Born in Helsinki, spent his school years in Porvoo and has since returned to the capital. • Spends a million euro each year to support ice hockey activities for children of limited means.
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The vanguard of sustainable development Students serve as awakeners and solve problems assigned by cooperation partners in multidisciplinary groups. Text: Krista Kinnunen Photo: Heidi Konttinen STUDENTS OF AALTO University’s Crea-
tive sustainability (CS) Master’s degree programme get to tackle large-scale challenges. The course’s spring semester includes a joint project with four clients. Familon wants to invent an effective way to recycle mattresses. Tampere Energy is considering possible future scenarios for district heating. Fiskars is interested in how gardening tools will evolve in the wake of urbanisation. Tanzania Meteorological Agency is engaged in a project that is examining how to supply local farmers with weather information that boosts their harvests and coping ability. “Corresponding problems are being mulled over by hundreds of experts around the world, but the role of our students is to question the self-evident, to awaken those who are not alert. A lot of students come from outside the Finnish context, and they are not locked into our traditional views and operating models,” says the head of the training programme, Professor Mikko Jalas.
Solar fence and tap water
The training programme provides good examples of practice-oriented problem solving that aims for a more sustainable future. Good technologies often exist, but applying them in practice may be difficult. In this, students of design, the engineering sciences and business can combine their expertise. For example, a student team has designed a solar fence for the Municipality of Tuusula. The fence abates traffic noise, in addition to which its embedded solar panels generate electricity. A practical application will be out soon. Together with the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY, students considered ways with which to replace consumption of bottled water with tap water. The water distribution 24 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 22
Students at the Creative Teamwork workshop in Suomenlinna in September 2017.
prototype the students created has been trialled at, among other places, the Slush event and the Forestry and Agriculture Fair, and HSY has commissioning more of them.
Aiming for responsible activity
The programme offers a broad serving of topical scientific knowledge related to sustainability and social responsibility. The aim is to educate and encourage students towards fresh thinking in the fields of design, architecture, management and real estate. “We want to train competent, critical professionals who can shape their own sectors and professional fields in an ever more responsible direction. The concept of sustainable development groups together a number of problems that we are eager to solve. It is at the core of the entire programme,” Jalas says. The students cooperate with several research projects, companies and organisations. The involved parties share a desire to develop their competitive advantage or their own identity around sustainable development. Jalas says that a key strength of the training programme and its students is the ability to challenge, to spur change.
“We are able to create sustainability innovations because we can see a little further into the future and because we examine issues from the perspective of sustainable development,” he states. And the world needs them. •
Creative Sustainability training programme • The English-language Master’s degree programme on sustainable development launched at Aalto University in 2010. About 40 students are accepted into the programme each year. • The joint School of Arts, Design and Architecture, School of Business and School of Engineering programme is aimed primarily at students focusing on the fields of design, architecture, management and the built environment. Creative Sustainability can also be studied as a minor subject. • The two-year programme accepts students from diverse backgrounds. Motivation and interest in questions related to sustainable development is the key factor when assessing applications. • Cooperation partners include businesses, public-sector actors and organisations.
Sowing something new A virtual reality game in development contains no shooting or explosions. VR Stranded is on its way to becoming at least a game, learning platform and artwork about climate change. Text: Tiiu Pohjolainen Photos: VR Stranded
“We’re working on much more than the virtual game. At the same time, VR Stranded will be a learning platform IT TURNED OUT to be a fortuitous hapdealing with climate change, while it is penstance that art education student partly an artistic production as well,” Vera Anttila decided to join the already- Vera Anttila says. underway Virtual Reality in Storytelling She is responsible for the game’s visual design and pedagogics. Essi Aittamaa is course. She had to find her place among groups, which had already settled in. serving as the scriptwriter and primary Anttila ended up a member of a team producer, while Gautam Vishwanath, consisting of media lab student Gautam although a trained game designer, has Vishwanath and Essi Aittamaa, a stu- been named mastermind by the group. dent of film and TV screenwriting. Gabriela Juganaru, an Aalto sound A dive into purple design graduate, recently complemented Once the world has been destroyed and their group, and the four are now working the icecaps melted, all that will remain on VR Stranded, a virtual reality game is a water-filled emptiness. The humans, who once cavorted around the planet, about climate change. The multidisciplinary and internahave left behind a chaotic scene of oil rigs tional team has been developing a demo and oil spills. The game begins amidst version of the game with the aid of a grant a watery and oily scene of desolation. from the Promotion Centre for Audiovis- The player awakens to a deserted world ual Culture in Finland AVEK. Their work in the embrace of a pink lotus flower. is scheduled for completion by the end of The goal is to survive in this bleak future the current year. fantasy world.
The colour pink and the lotus flower are key aspects here. The game being developed will not set players wandering around grey and brown post-apocalyptic scenes, instead the world the access through a virtual headset will glow with hues of pink, warm yellow and deep purple. And this is not a shooter; instead, the player floats around on a lotus vessel looking for seeds to plant. Perhaps sowing them might lead to the growth of something new, and alive.
Scriptwriting a virtual reality game is very different from creating, for example, a movie or a radio play. “Players are active agents, and their experience is bodily. Someone watching a movie sits in one place and experiences the story told by the film. By contrast, VR gamers focus their sight on specific targets, traverse the environment and themselves make decisions regarding their actions and progress. All this needs to be taken into consideration during the scriptwriting phase,” Essi Aittamaa says. To, in part, facilitate the bodily experience, the players move about under cover of the lotus flower’s leaves. This is not only an artistic or a symbolic choice, as the aim is to also make the players feel like they are inside something, under protection. This eases the feeling of physical nausea that many virtual reality gamers experience. The game is intended for players who are at least ten years old. Workshops were arranged for the target group where participants had the opportunity to play the demo version, or prototype, under development. This also afforded the development team the chance to hear what the younger generations think about climate change. • The game designers post pictures and videos on their Instagram account VRStranded. AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 22 \ 25
Text: Minna Hölttä Photos: Eeva Suorlahti, Mikko Raskinen
What if the world’s cattle munched on Finnish wood? A new manufacturing method will open entirely new markets for microcrystalline cellulose. In future, it could be used to enrich animal fodder, lighten pastry buns and even to prevent disease in production animals.
VIDEO: Professor Olli Dahl reveals how to make chickens happier. http://bit.ly/2FOSRAs
26 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 22
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Researcher Annina Lähdeniemi using a spray dryer on some AaltoCell™mass.
Brown MCC could be a big hit in the animal feed industry. New use applications for white MCC are being sought in, for example, the food and textile industries.
IN A WAY, it all got started by accident.
Professor Olli Dahl’s research group had an idea ten years ago: pulp mills that were suffering from the transition affecting the Finnish forest industry could be turned into biofuel factories. Instead of dissolving wood pulp, they would use paper pulp directly as a raw material, with manufacturing carried out in high temperatures and employing diluted acid hydrolysis, i.e. a very small amount of sulphuric acid. “What came out was sugars for ethanol, as had been intended, but also some pulp mass, which would not dissolve even after numerous hydrolysis phases,” Olli Dahl says. The stubborn mass turned out to be microcrystalline cellulose or MCC. It is valuable stuff, which had earlier been made only from dissolving wood pulp at small production units. As a tonne of MCC can, depending on quality, cost up to €6,000, it has been utilised mostly as a pharmaceutical filling agent. Dahl and his partners quickly investigated the patent situation and found out that nobody else anywhere in the world had manufactured MCC using the same method and on the scale of a pulp mill. “We also realised that the output of just one facility the size of the Kemijärvi mill would flood the market unless we also developed new use applications.”
reveals that chickens, which had consumed MCC in trials, ate less yet still grew more and were healthier. “We assume that microcrystalline cellulose either absorbs harmful substances when passing through their digestive systems or, alternatively, the phenolic compounds of the lignin it contains are killing bacteria.” At the moment, the South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences in Mikkeli and the Natural Resources Institute Finland LUKE are studying what effects MCC has on ruminants. Similar trials on pigs and retrials on poultry are being planned with the University of Helsinki. If the clinical trials and trial use on farms are successful, the possibilities are substantial. “Here in Finland, fodder has a high fibre content and the use of antibiotics is moderate. The situation is different internationally. In Southeast Asia, for example, there is practically no grass, which is why MCC would make a great additive to animal feed. We expect this to be a hit product particularly in China, where production animals are given more antibiotics than anywhere else in the world,” Dahl says.
Biogas for Central Europe
Dahl is not alone with his ideas. In December 2017, Aalto University entered into a cooperation agreement with paper and pulp industry equipment manufacturer Andritz Oy. The goal is to take AaltoCell™ technology to Like doping for cows the global markets. The technology is efficient and enviOne potential high-volume user for MCC is the animal ronment-friendly, both trump cards in today’s world. feed industry. Pastures and the growing of fodder conAaltoCell™ consumes only one percent of the sulphuric sume up to a quarter of the available land on our planet acid needed for the traditional microcrystalline cellu– often in areas where land is needed to grow plants that lose manufacturing method. Furthermore, using paper are edible for humans. For ruminants, MCC with its pulp as a raw material saves the energy that would have near 100% cellulose content is a real power food, which been required to make dissolving wood pulp, while the could be used to boost the energy content of fodder and heat needed for the process itself is extracted from the thus reduce demand for other types of animal feed. bark of the wood used to make the pulp. “This is almost like doping for cows,” Dahl says as he A hundred kilos of basic paper pulp creates about picks up a jar and pours out a pile of brown powder on ninety kilos of MCC and ten kilos of pure sugars. the palm of his hand. “After the beginning, we realised that, instead of etha“This MCC contains lignin in addition to cellulose, nol, the sugars should be used to make biogas, which has that’s why it’s brown. It is extracted in a different part of a much better heat value,” Dahl says and starts to enthuthe factory, and its manufacture creates no wastewater siastically sketch out a vision: from bleaching.” “There are a lot of pulp mills in Central Europe that Cellulose can only be utilised for energy by rumiare located close to major traffic flows. The raw material nants, whose four-compartment stomachs can digest they consume consists of mixed broadleaf trees, which it. MCC passes straight through the digestive systems contains fibres of a pretty low quality for papermakof animals with single-compartment stomachs, such ing. Our method makes it possible to turn the entire mill as poultry and pigs, but they, too, can benefit from it as into a biogas factory, which could serve passing traffic. a dietary supplement that enhances wellbeing. Dahl This would also remove low-quality paper pulp from 28 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 22
the market. And the digestate the process yields could be mixed with bark ash and then used in the planting of new forests. Finland is too sparsely populated for this idea to work here, but the factory’s forklifts and other gear could be powered by biogas, and timber transports would of course be done with biogas trucks.”
Safe local fibre
In addition to commercialisation, the agreement with Andritz Oy covers a multi-year research cooperation, which has the aim of identifying new use applications for microcrystalline cellulose in, for example, the textile industry. White MCC is in demand also in the manufacture of food products and natural food supplements. “It’s like wheat flour, but with zero energy,” Dahl smiles and produces another jar, this time containing white powder. Add some to a sweet bun dough for a lighter treat or significantly boost the fibre content of your morning porridge by on sprinkling some MCC. “Hunger does arise from an empty stomach. Add a decent spoonful to your porridge, and it will form a web in your belly, making you feel full – weight loss would be pretty much guaranteed.” Dahl has an unambiguous message for anyone with safety concerns: there’s no need to worry. Every step of the manufacturing process is known in detail from the forest all the way to the jar. “A lot of people eat various supplements with no knowledge whatsoever about where their fibres came from. This, on the other hand, has been researched and found to be totally free of all chemical traces and, to top it off, it’s Finnish – a truly local fibre.” •
Aalto University and the bioeconomy • Some 200 Aalto researchers, 35 of whom are professors, engage in bioeconomy-related research. • Aalto also heads the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence in Molecular Engineering of Biosynthetic Hybrid Materials. • The Aalto Bioproduct Centre gathers bioeconomy researchers under one roof and also provides premises for industry companies. The Centre is receiving investments valued at some €20 million in the period 2017–19. • Many of the research projects are associated with the development of new and more sustainable materials. Aalto is also conducting a lot of research into nanocellulose and the diverse utilisation of wood as a building material. • The amount of innovations related to the bioeconomy is growing, and some 20 inventions are recorded annually.
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VIDEO: Watch how Finnish tree fibres are turned into garments and clothes. http://bit.ly/2FOSRAs
A detail of a tie made of the Ioncell fibre.
What if the textiles of the future grew in Finnish forests? Ioncell, a fibre woven from cellulose, is a strong contender as a sustainable alternative to cotton and polyester. For Finland, it could mean billions of euros of potential business. Text: Minna Hölttä Photo: Eeva Suorlahti CONSUMPTION OF TEXTILE fibres is
increasing worldwide by over 3 percent a year, while at the same time cotton farming is shrinking and knowledge of the environmental damage caused by artificial fibres is increasing. It is no wonder that textile sector giants around the world are feverishly looking for alternatives. Indeed, demand for cellulose fibre is increasing 6 percent per year, but the viscose and Tencel products already on the market are not enough to meet the demand. “The manufacturer of viscose requires poisonous carbon disulphide, and Tencel production is all controlled by one company. It is estimated that by 2030 there will be an annual market shortfall of between 10 and 20 million tonnes of cellulose fibre,” says Professor Herbert Sixta. Together with his research group, he is developing the Ioncell method, which can be used to produce top grade textile fibre from cellulose. The manufacturing process uses an ionic solvent developed by Helsinki University Professor Ilkka Kilpeläinen, and suitable raw materials for the process include both 30 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 22
dissolving pulp and also recycled paper, cardboard or waste textiles. The fabric produced has a pleasant feel and a beautiful shine. In terms of strength, it compares very well with cotton, linen and other man-made cellulose fibres. “Ioncell is a fantastic textile material in terms of both technical qualities and feel. In addition, it looks very good when dyed. From a designer’s point of view, however, the most important thing is that we can bring to market materials that enable the production of ecologically sustainable textiles,” says Professor of Practice Pirjo Kääriäinen. Up to this point, the fibre has only been produced in small quantities in laboratory conditions, but the goal is to construct a pilot factory in the next few years. The raw material is abundantly available from Finnish forests, where around one fifth of annual growth is currently left unused. This amount of unexploited forest would produce around 6 million tonnes of cellulose, which if processed to produce a textile fibre of a similar value to cotton would be worth around €7 billion. •
Ioncell • A method developed by a team led by Aalto University Professor Herbert Sixta for manufacturing regenerated cellulose fibre. • The production process involves three stages: dissolving the cellulose, spinning the fibre and recovering the solvent. The dissolving is done with an ionic liquid which is a safe and environmentally friendly alternative to the solvents currently used in fibre manufacturing processes. • A variety of experts have been involved in the development of Ioncell, ranging from chemists to textile sector specialists. • Unique products have been made with Ioncell, including scarves, iPad cases and the Allu dress designed for Marimekko. • Ioncell has also been awarded two distinguished prizes: The 2015 European Paper Recycling Award and the 2016 H&M Global Change Award.
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Conceptual drawing of the Otaniemi area.
Text: Anu Vallinkoski Photo: SLA
Campus envisioned as a green oasis An open space plan designed by an award-winning landscape architecture firm would introduce more nature and housing to the Otaniemi campus. AN URBAN ATMOSPHERE, new homes
for 7,000 people, more services, exercise options and playgrounds, but also more greenery, urban cultivation plots and nature. This is what the overall plan designed by Bjørn Ginman and Laura Myllyluoma of Danish landscape architecture firm SLA promises for the Otaniemi area. “It is possible to combine greenery and the housing target set by the City of Espoo. We can introduce green spaces alongside and amidst the buildings and traffic routes in many ways,” Ginman says. SLA is a specialist in sustainable landscape architecture. Chosen to design this project from amongst fifteen international firms, it is one of the best-known landscape architecture bureaus in the world. SLA won the Nordic Built Cities Challenge architecture competition in 2016. The framework of SLA’s plan is formed by near-pristine shores and three green areas that dissect the urban environment. The focal point of development is on the south side. The extent to which the buildings and the environment have been worked on reduces gradually as you head north and east. Exercise stations 32 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 22
have also been included in the compo sition of the green areas. The intention is to create a more urban feel to Otaniemi while at the same time shaping scattered green areas into coherent totalities. Aalto University Vice President Antti Ahlava says the University’s strategic focal points – sustainable development, user orientation and developing the campus as a trial laboratory for the University – are emphasised in the plan. “Sustainable development is associated with more than just building services, nor does user orientation mean that we should only promote cosy interior spaces. Both of these goals can be realised also in environmental planning and the outdoor spaces. SLA’s idea for environmental workshops that promote the involvement of residents and users likewise fit our strategy well,” he notes.
Applied bit by bit
This is the first time that the Otaniemi area is being considered as a single totality from the perspective of landscape architecture and environmental planning. Ginman says the earlier lack of plan-
ning is evident. At present, Otaniemi has a lot of disused land and paved parking lots. The buildings are scattered here and there. The intention is not to alter the situation in one fell swoop, and SLA’s plan might not be realised without modifications. The shaped vision serves as a foundation for the area’s more detailed planning in the future. It is likely that the plan will be modified and implemented bit by bit. Ahlava praises the inclusion of ideas and proposals of a varying scale that can be adopted to practice according to suitability. The plan presents a big picture of the location of future construction work; on the other hand, it also includes detailed ideas on, for example, alternative ground cover materials. One suggestion is to use bricks from dismantled buildings as paving stones. The plan is also alive by design. Our future way of life and associated needs are likely to be quite different for what we have now. “If, for example, the significance of private cars reduces, the parking lots could be replaced with something else, like playgrounds,” Myllyluoma points out.
SLA wanted to emphasise the existing strengths of Otaniemi. These include its rich biodiversity, significant building historical heritage as well as its multidisciplinary and multicultural community. “Landscape architecture can help in the creation of pleasant outdoor spaces that inspire people to go outside. Studies have shown that people interact more with one another in such environments. This promotes the occurrence of chance encounters. The Otaniemi community consists of people from many different countries and representing a variety of disciplines. It is our hope that people from different backgrounds would come together, giving rise to something new and innovative,” Myllyluoma says. SLA’s vision sees Otaniemi as a walkable urban area. Everywhere can be reached easily via the numerous footpaths. The plan also contains more cycleways than now exist. The aim is to reduce the importance of private cars in the area. A communal urban cultivation area shared by the residents will also attract people to go outdoors and be active together. The conceptual illustrations are dotted with fruit trees and garden plots.
More than just aesthetics
SLA says landscape architecture has been going through quite an upheaval in recent years. Whereas earlier a landscape architect’s main job was to design aesthetic and cosy environments, today’s designers are tackling problems on a larger scale. Landscape architecture can help mitigate problems caused by, among other things, climate change or traffic and urbanisation. “It looks like climate change is leading to substantially increased rainfall in the Nordic region. Landscape design can help deal with growing volumes of run-off rainwater. For example, you can build an artificial pond where water accumulates naturally. Vegetation can tackle noise and air pollution,” Ginman explains. The Otaniemi plan includes themes for controlling run-off water as well as green roofs that improve air quality.
Environment and economy as equals Ginman and Myllyluoma hope that Otaniemi will become an area that attracts people from elsewhere to come spend their time. “This campus is quite unique on the
Urban cultivation plots and additional green areas will bring verdancy to the mix of buildings and traffic paths. Conceptual drawing of a possible residential area in the Kivimies block.
global scale. I hope that you don’t take this for granted. Once you chop down a forest, you’ll never get it back,” Ginman says. Cosiness and nature values are of economic significance as well. If an area is attractive, people are prepared to pay more for apartments. A pleasant environment also attracts new businesses. “This has happened in our earlier design locations,” Myllyluoma says. Time will tell what becomes of SLA’s plans. The University is considering the development of Otaniemi in cooperation with other landowners. Aalto University and the City of Espoo are presently sketching a local-plan-level design framework for Otaniemi. “We have numerous smaller projects ongoing all the time. For example, the plan could first be applied along Otaniementie from the Learning Centre to the old shopping centre,” Ahlava reckons. • AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 22 \ 33
VIDEO: Maija Itkonen cooks pulled oats. http://bit.ly/2FOSRAs
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an attitude change If we can change our attitude towards food, the environment will benefit and the variety of flavours increase. Hold on to your hats – a food revolution is taking place. Text: Tea Kalska Illustration: Ida-Maria Wikström
AVA BEAN bolognese is no longer
an unusual sight on the plate of the Average Joe, and pulled oats are nowadays served at weddings and student parties. Being vegetarian is easy in today’s world, it’s not just for tree-hugging hippies any more. Pulled oats are an innovation developed by Aalto University alumna, designer Maija Itkonen and her friend, researcher Reetta Kivelä. The pair have established a company called Gold&Green Foods, whose website says their aim is to launch a food revolution armed with plants and technology.
The promised reward is better health and a cleaner environment. In addition to vegetarian options, a trend-aware and ecologically-minded consumer might include, for example, insects and common roach, traditionally considered a worthless fish, in their diet. At the same time, urban food production methods are beginning to challenge traditional agriculture. Mushrooms are being grown in the kitchen while urban bees are being reintroduced to the cityscape. It’s time to look at food from a fresh perspective. Vive la révolution! Minced meat sauce is yesterday’s news.
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Lowering the carbon footprint with bugs WOULD YOU chow down on crickets?
Top chef Henri Alén has already served them as a filler to a rye taco garnished with artichoke and herbs. Shops presently sell crickets in the form of, among other things, breakfast muesli and cricket-chilli nuts. “The taste of crickets is nutty, rooty and mushroom-like. Some identify notes of chicken or shrimp,” says Perttu Karjalainen, who is the CEO of cricket producer EntoCube and an Aalto student. EntoCube specialises in growing insects and developing incubation technology. Its founders are motivated by sustainable food production and the circular economy. Growing insects requires a lot less space, water and fodder than raising cows, pigs or chicken. EntoCube started growing crickets in a container on the Otaniemi campus in 2014. The company supplies insect production systems and it is attempting to build a market for insects with its brand Samu. “EntoCube farms are also being built in empty production facilities, of which there are an enormous amount in Finland. We recently delivered a farm to an old piggery in Tammela.” There’s nothing new about eating insects, they have been used as nourishment around the world for millennia. More than two billion people eat them regularly, Karjalainen points out. Crickets are quite the superfood. They contain lots of protein, unsaturated fats, important amino acids, minerals and vitamin B-12. For now, insects remain an expensive raw material because their production requires many hours of manual labour. “The producer price of pork can be as low as €1.50 per kilo, but with crickets the labour alone will cost about €18 per kilo.” Karjalainen predicts that production costs will fall in the near future through the introduction of improved technolo-
gies. As production volumes grow, the time required to perform individual tasks will shorten and materials can also be sourced at a lower cost thanks to larger order volumes. “Five years from now, insects will be everyday food. The consumer can then go to the shop thinking should I buy 400 grams of mincemeat – or maybe today is my cricket day.”
BEEF PRODUCTION CREATES GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS IN EXCESS OF 2,800 g/kg, WHILE GROWING CRICKETS RELEASES NO MORE THAN 2 g/kg OF GREENHOUSE GASES. FAO: EDIBLE INSECTS. FUTURE PROSPECTS FOR FOOD AND FEED SECURITY
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Save our lakes by eating roach THE ROACH (Rutilus rutilus) is not
typically considered a delicacy in Finnish cuisine, but Paavo Vallas thinks this could very well change. The common roach is, in fact, quite delicious and, what’s more, a very ecological choice. Each roach an angler pulls up also removes phosphates, a key factor in eutrophication, from the water system. These phosphates are bound in fish bones. “Each kilo of roach catch removes about as much phosphates as the farming of one kilo of fish would produce.” Vallas is a student of environmental management at Aalto, in addition to which he runs his Särkifood business. His aim is to get shops to stock roach as a healthy and affordable alternative to mincemeat and chicken slices. He honed the final idea for Särkifood while attending the Aalto Ventures Programme entrepreneurship course. Earlier, while working a summer job at the environmental health agency of the Lahti region, Vallas had learned that each year some 100,000–200,000 kilos of fish pulled from the waters of Vesijärvi were immediately dumped. He felt that this was a waste. People think of roach as an inedible trash fish, however. Vallas reckons that
this prejudice is rooted in experiences gained during fishing at the summer cottage. “When anglers catch a roach, they soon learn that it isn’t easy to cook because of the abundance of bones. Industrial production equipment can, however, remove the bones entirely, thus solving the problem.” At the moment, Vallas is trying to convince people involved in the fish economy about the business potential of roach. Shops would first need to start stocking it so that consumers could find out how good it actually is. That would enable development of de-boning machinery, which would open up a much larger market. Vallas says that roach can be used to make very tasty hamburger patties, taco fillings and smoked paste to spread on a baguette. He is confident that roach will become an increasingly popular everyday food sooner or later. “Meat production cannot be increased. So where will we find the protein that we need? Finnish lakes are overflowing with it, we just need to start pulling it out. It’s only a matter of time before someone becomes the first to collect the business profits this will yield.”
THE PHOSPHOROUS CONTENT IN THE FRESH WEIGHT OF ROACH IS 8.5–10.4 g/kg. FINNISH GAME AND FISHERIES RESEARCH INSTITUTE
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Mushroom farming as part of the circular economy AALTO UNIVERSITY alumnus, engineer-
ing graduate Jussi Aav has been in love with mushrooms since he was a child. A couple of years ago, he became vegan and, while browsing a vegan Facebook group, came across the just-founded company Helsieni. Aav popped over to Helsieni’s offices for a chat with founders Stéphane Poirié and Chris Holtslag. A year later, he became a partner in the firm. Helsieni employs the principles of the circular economy to grow fungi – oyster mushrooms primarily – for nearby restaurants and shops. Their growing dishes are recycled, sourced from, for example, industrial kitchens, and the mushrooms are grown in used coffee grounds and oat chaff, which are usually considered nothing more than biowaste. “Finns consume almost ten kilos of coffee per person each year. We estimate that the used grounds created by the nation’s coffee habit could be utilised to grow 18 million kilos of oyster mushrooms each year,” Aav illustrates. Helsieni also sells products to consumers who want to grow mushrooms in their homes and gardens. Aav has himself used Helsieni’s Grow Kit, a box made out of recycled plastic in which you place a layer of used coffee grounds and some spores, to produce oyster mushrooms. In just a few weeks, the box produces a harvest of tasty fungi. The company also arranges workshops that teach participants how to, for example, craft a mushroom grow cabinet out of an old refrigerator. “The range of mushrooms available in shops is pretty poor, and you can’t forage them in the winter. It’s great to have the opportunity to eat mushrooms you’ve grown yourself all year around.” Aav reckons that interest in growing food, urban farming and ecological food production is on the rise. He himself 38 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 22
wants to grow some of his food at home and to reduce the amount of waste. Reducing our consumption of animal products would, however, bring the biggest ecological benefits. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has estimated that meat and dairy production causes more greenhouse gas emissions than transport. “I’m father to a one-year-old boy. I want to leave behind a planet that is in as good a condition as possible to the future generations. We can’t go on like we have up to now.”
18 MILLION KILOS OF OYSTER MUSHROOMS COULD BE GROWN WITH THE SPENT COFFEE GROUNDS FINNS PRODUCE EACH YEAR. JUSSI AAV, HELSIENI
Bee appreciation THE FINNISH BEEKEEPERS’ ASSOCIATION notes that bees have been kept as
35% OF THE WORLD’S CULTIVATED CROPS ARE DEPENDENT ON POLLINATORS. IPES – INTERGOVERNMENTAL SCIENCE-POLICY PLATFORM ON BIODIVERSITY AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICES
VIDEO: Art installation transforms bee buzz into music. http://bit.ly/2FOSRAs
farm animals in Finland ever since the 18th century. Curator and artist Ulla Taipale says that bees get stressed and suffer from intensive farming methods just like other production animals. Taipale leads the Melliferopolis project together with Austrian artist and researcher Christina Stadlbauer. In Finland, this project was launched in 2012 as part of Aalto University’s biological art programme Biofilia. The aim is to bring bees into urban environments, increase encounters between bees and people, and, through the means of art, improve knowledge and appreciation of bees. “We want to highlight what would be lost if these pollinators were to disappear,” Taipale says. The project has built different kinds of beehives in the Helsinki region, at the Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden and the Otaniemi campus, for example. In summer 2016, a bee runway, i.e. an eightmetre-long flowerbed, was added to a hive in Tarja Halonen Park. The runway was soon buzzing with a multitude of pollinators, winning over the hearts of local residents. “When done in accordance with
the principles of sustainable development, beekeeping aims to boost the wellbeing of bees and people alike instead of just maximising the efficiency of honey production. A balanced urban environment has to have green areas, and bees are necessary for plants.” Bees are of course more than just flowerbed decorations. Taipale says that if bee colonies were to collapse, Finland would lose at least its blueberry, apple, cherry and courgette harvests. Around the world, crops like almonds and cocoa would be lost. “Bees have already disappeared in some regions of China, forcing humans to pollinate fruit trees by hand. It’s slow work and raises the price of fruit.” One way to protect bees would be to reintroduce them to urban life. Bees should not, however, be seen only as makers of honey, but as a lifeline for many plants. Bees are also the focus of many prejudices and fears, and they are often confused with wasps. The Mellifero polis project has nevertheless already achieved results: “At the start of the project, we had to persuade officials to allow us to place hives in the urban area, but now they are in high demand.” • AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 22 \ 39
Researchers Antti Porvali and Shila Jafari engaging in dissolution and precipitation of rare earth elements from nickel metal hydride battery waste.
Rare metals need efficient recycling Text: Timo Hämäläinen Photo: Glen Forde
How can the valuable ingredients of batteries be recovered? What could replace bismuth, tellurium and many other rarities? These are some of the issues being examined by the CloseLoop project. “THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY is often
thought to encompass the bioeconomy and waste recycling. We at CloseLoop highlight the significance of rare metals as a part of the circular economy,” says Professor Maarit Karppinen. CloseLoop is a joint Aalto University, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and University of Helsinki Consumer Society Research Centre research project. It is motivated by a global concern for the sufficient availability of rare metals. Aalto is concentrating on researching 40 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 22
and developing the refining and recycling processes of the chemicals and rare metals utilised in lithium-based batteries, which are used as energy stores. Thermoelectric devices, which generate electricity from heat, are another research subject.
Demand for lithium batteries is growing strongly because of the electrification of traffic, although batteries are also used for grid energy storage.
“Less than one percent of lithium is recycled. If just one third of the existing fleet of cars were to be replaced by electric vehicles, lithium production would have to increase manifold,” expert Pertti Kauranen points out. Only some five percent of batteries get recycled. Along with lithium, this squanders other metals like nickel and cobalt that batteries contain. Cobalt is a so-called critical raw material, listed by the EU Commission most recently in 2017.
THE PROCESSES ARE TAILORED FOR DIFFERENT RAW MATERIALS Materials, which are classified as critical, are used in batteries, televisions, electric cars, fuel cells, permanent magnets, LEDs, laser technology, solar panels and many other technical applications. Aalto is researching refining and recovery processes for lithium and other rare metals as well as developing entirely new recycling processes. Multiphase processes combine mechanical methods with high-temperature and solution chemistry. “The processes are tailored for different raw materials. This is already being done when the starting point involves various virgin ores, concentrates and materials, which are recycled currently. Corresponding and improved tailoring should be performed also with respect to new recycled metals,” says Assistant Professor Mari Lundström. Lundström says Aalto is conducting lots of applied research and engages in close cooperation with the industry. This provides a good toolbox for developing a circular economy for metals.
In the thermoelectric effect, the difference in temperatures between a material’s warmer and colder side creates electrical energy. The vision is to convert the waste energy created by industry, traffic and even humans into electricity. This electrical energy could be stored in batteries. Compounds containing bismuth and tellurium are nowadays used to make electricity-generating thermocouples. Both elements are relatively rare, and tellurium has been classified as a critical element. Thermocouples generate electricity with fairly poor efficiency, which has hindered the development of fresh applications. The poor heat endurance of materials has been problematic in, for example, applications that utilise waste heat from traffic. “If there is a large increase in applications, the rarity of tellurium could
become a problem. At CloseLoop, we are trying to come up with solutions in which bismuth and tellurium are replaced with more readily available raw materials. Zinc oxide, for example, is a common, safe and heat-resistant alternative material,” Maarit Karppinen says.
decision-makers in January 2018. It notes that Finland could attract battery industry investments with an active industrial policy and through close cooperation between involved actors. A large battery factory would represent an investment worth at least a billion euro. Designed to be recycled Finland’s attractiveness is boosted by A large-scale increase in battery-based our diverse mining industry and strong electric car and electrical grid applicaexpertise in metallurgy. Finland is tions is, according to the research proEurope’s biggest producer of nickel and ject’s leaders, only possible if the princicobalt, both of which are used in lithium ples of the circular economy are applied batteries. A project to start producing to the design, manufacture and use of lithium for refining is already in progress. batteries. Finland also produces battery chemicals. “This is about a fundamental system“Companies and universities should level change in thinking. Companies need further tighten their cooperation. to shift the focal point of their business Finland has a unique starting point for operations from the selling of products developing an industry based on recyto the provision of lifespan services. cling technologies,” Mari Lundström Equipment must be made durable, easy says. • to service and repair,” says Pertti Kauranen. Among other things, VTT’s interest in CloseLoop is to study how the ideas of the circular economy are changing CloseLoop society and affecting product design. The University of Helsinki researches • Joint Aalto University, VTT and University consumer attitudes to the circular econof Helsinki Consumer Society Research omy as well as possible means with Centre project for the period 2016-19. which to influence consumer behaviour. • Researches closed material loop “Recyclability introduces new pertechnologies, new business models for spectives to materials development and the circular economy and consumer research. Instead of only considering behaviour in the circular economy. the optimal performance of individual • The Strategic Research Council of materials and products, we should also the Academy of Finland is funding examine the adequate availability and the project to the tune of €3.6 million, full lifespans of materials,” Maarit almost half of which is being allocated Karppinen emphasises. to Aalto. She raises the importance of interac• The goal is to raise expertise in tion in teaching. Introducing students to high-value-added circular economy new paradigms also ensures the circular technologies into one of the spearheads economy’s development. of Finland’s national economy.
The CloseLoop project partners published a recommendation titled Making Finland a model country of battery production and the circular economy to AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 22 \ 41
Blockchains – as revolutionary as the Internet?
The virtual currency Bitcoin has already demonstrated that blockchains work. Expectations are much higher than this, however – could the world’s digital history be stored on blockchains? Text: Marjukka Puolakka Illustration: Ida-Maria Wikström A NON-STOP RACE is on the go. Thou-
sands of miners, i.e. owners of specialised computer rigs around the world, are simultaneously trying to find a code, which will close a fresh block. The winner adds a new block to the blockchain and collects the just-created 12.5 Bitcoins as a reward. This creates a chain, which contains all earlier Bitcoin transfers through the ages. The information cannot be tampered with after the fact, as the code of each block is a cryptographic summary that gets incorporated into the next block. The success of Bitcoin, which came on the market in 2008, has demonstrated that blockchain technology really works. “The necessary technology was, for the most part, in existence by the beginning of the 2000s, perhaps even earlier than that. The fresh insight introduced by Bitcoin was the way in which it ensures that the majority of the computers, which maintain the database, accept the validity of transfers and the content of a new block,” says Professor Pekka Nikander. Blockchains are based on distributed ledger technology (DLT). Whereas a traditional financial database will tell you an account’s balance, a blockchain is a registry of currency transactions. Hundreds if not thousands of copies of all transfers are maintained around the world.
latest estimates, Bitcoin mining consumes as much electricity as half of Denmark, roughly equal to the output of a few nuclear plants.” A new block is created every 10 minutes on average, so mining consumes about $750,000 worth of electricity every hour when the market is in equilibrium. “This is clearly bonkers. The price of a Bitcoin has fallen from the period of peak hype, where it climbed to some $20,000, to about $10,000 at present, which indicates that exuberance is fading.” The thinking is that Bitcoin only represents a start in the utilisation of blockchains. The technology makes it possible to store information securely by distributing it to numerous computers. The system is, in practice, watertight if you need to store data on transactions and maintain the ability to verify the order they occurred in afterwards. A possible example of what might be coming is a global logistics system that Mining burns electricity tracks sea containers on their journey to The Bitcoin race consumes computing their final destination. power as complex summary functions “Even sea containers that contain miliget solved through experimentation. tary equipment can disappear in unacThis means that it makes sense to harcountable ways. A blockchain could proness more computers to the mining effort vide a reliable account of a container’s in order to increase your chances of movements as well as show who signed winning. for its receipt most recently.” “The competition can only be won Blockchains could just as well help by burning electricity. According to investigate pharmaceutical counterfeits, 42 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 22
trace the causes of spoiled food shipments or record property sale contracts.
The unchanging history of the world Blockchains have been prophesied to become a revolution on a par with the Internet, which transformed the world in the 1990s. Whereas the Internet is a worldwide information network, blockchains could become a global history database. “A blockchain layers information atop previous layers, and a global blockchain could record thousands or even millions of events per second. It would be impossible to alter information about events that happened earlier in the history, as even a single change would require each and every layer to be tampered with.” There’s a ways to go before we reach this point, however. Pekka Nikander says blockchain technology is now going through a hype stage comparable to the Internet boom around the turn of the millennium. The memories of that era include clumsy technology and an enthusiasm to cobble together personal webpages. “Ten years from now, we may well think of Bitcoin as the mother of all bubbles. Blockchains, on the other hand, could very well have become a key component of all the information technology we use.” •
Coding a sonorous drawing Text and photo: Mikko Raskinen A bunch of schoolchildren got together to combine art and science at the new Aalto University Junior lab space during the winter holiday. The creative young participants built things like a sonorous drawing and an interactive poster during the course. “The best part was getting to examine pencil and Indian ink drawings with a microscope,” said 11-year-old Suvi Sossa. An electron microscope revealed the elemental compositions of pencils. The sonorous drawing was created by connecting a piece drawn with an electrically conductive pencil to an Arduino electronic platform. “This phenomenon-based learning course started from something everyone is familiar with – a pencil – and went on to create contents for both the electronics and the visual art side,” says coordinator Kasperi MäkiReinikka, who was in charge of the course together with his colleague Heta Närhi.
Aalto University Junior offers courses, clubs, themed events and study visits to comprehensive and upper secondary school pupils. Its activities combine the University’s expertise in the fields of science, art, entrepreneurship, management, maths and technology. Aalto’s LUMA activities as well as the bioart research and teaching laboratory Biofilia have also been brought under the Junior umbrella totality. • junior.aalto.fi
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The search for food safety Students from Aalto and the University of Nairobi are examining food’s value chain from maize fields to the milk glass. Text: Outi Puukko Photos: Laura Silvanto “LET’S START with the cow video!
How many had milk today at breakfast,” asks design student Hilda Ruijs, who is taking part in Aalto University’s IDBM (International Design Business Management) programme. The next morning, a team of students from Aalto and the University of Nairobi intends to ask 120 food security professionals the same question at Nairobi Innovation Week. The Slush-inspired event is being arranged for the fourth time now, and it will be attended by a broad group representing Finnish businesses, organisations and university actors. Just this dress rehearsal to go, and then Ruijs and Nairobian engineering student Duncan Mageto will be prepared to hear what final feedback the client, the Natural Resource Institute Finland LUKE, has to give. They need to fit the best bits about working together for three weeks into a 15-minute presentation. The sitting room wall is dotted by seventeen A3 sheets filled with colourful Post-it notes. The team has studied each link of the food value chain, and the field work component took them to meet with small farmers, milk producers, feedstuff suppliers, street food vendors and researchers. “We met with all these people and tried to put ourselves in their shoes,” Hilda Ruijs tells a practice audience consisting of her teammates.
Student team visiting the Jasho Feeds company. Aalto student Loi Tran (l.) and University of Nairobi student Unelker Maoga discuss feed production.
“Aflatoxin cannot be removed from the milk – even processing will not change this. A large portion of the milk we here in Kenya consume contains these toxins. People are just unaware of this,” says social scientist Benjamin Atika from University of Nairobi’s team. The team has ascertained that maize traders, who also store maize and influence its resale, are of key importance to finding a solution. Toxic maize sells well because of its low price. “One packet of it is right there in our fridge,” Loi Tran, a student of entrepreneurship at Aalto, says and points to the kitchen. Often, only bigger farms have the negotiating power and ability to test for aflaTracking a hidden toxin toxins. Smallholders are in a challenging LUKE has given the students free hands situation because the tests are expensive, to utilise the results of the FoodAfrica in addition to which their entire crop is research project: the team’s goal is to at the mercy of an increasingly unstable identify fresh ways to tackle aflatoxins, climate. The rain is torrential right now carcinogenic compounds that can lie hid- – the rainy season is starting early, while den in staple commodities. Aflatoxins there was barely any rain at all one year are caused by certain moulds, and they earlier. can occur in, for example, maize that has “Farming is wholly dependent on rainbeen stored in damp conditions. Using fall and the people are dependent on spoiled maize as fodder for dairy cattle farming. If you have sowed seeds to gerwill lead to toxic milk. minate and the rain comes at the wrong 44 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 22
time, you have to start the whole thing over. There’s not many factors in this chain that farmers can influence,” says IDBM student Maaria Tiensivu. Her service design background has helped Tiensivu to articulate even the more complex issues. “This has been eye-opening for me. Everything I ever knew about plants – that they require sunlight and watering – got replaced. You never water plants, just let the rainy season handle it,” she laughs. There have been plenty of fresh insights, as the ten-strong team includes people with backgrounds from many different scientific disciplines. “This project has helped me understand they way in which others think, which will benefit me in working life as well. It has, in fact, been more like work than studying – in a good way,” Tiensivu notes.
Learning in a new way
The Aalto team has been engaged in background work for this project since November 2017, while the Nairobi students got involved through a new course this February. “Field work in particular has been very
Maize is a common dairy cattle feed in Kenya.
different than in our other courses. Normally, we do our studying on campus and at lectures,” says Unelker Maoga, student of environmental science. Computer science lecturer Peter Okech, who has provided support for the student team, shares a similar view: “The things we are familiar with in theory have been realised in practice.” The University of Nairobi is one of three East African institutions of higher education that are developing problembased learning. PBL East Africa is a joint three-year project of Aalto, Makerere University, University of Dar es Salaam
and the University of Nairobi, which is being coordinated by Aalto Global Impact. The IDBM and Creative Sustainability Master’s degree programmes as well as the Sustainable Global Technologies and Digital Services for Sustainability courses are taking part. The students’ shared projects take place in spring. “It’s amazing what the students have managed to achieve in such a short time. They have worked very independently. Working for a client as well as for the teachers has been a novelty to us,” Peter Okech says. Although the Nairobi component will soon end, the closely welded team will continue working together from their respective home universities.
Hamadi Boga have delivered their opening addresses to the Improving Food Security Through Shared Value and Innovation seminar. Now it is time for the students to take the stage. “We’ve dived into the value chain of food safety. We want to discuss our preliminary results with you: testing for aflatoxins, maize drying and storing methods, training and know-how, transparency and support for communities as well as politics and regulations,” Duncan Mageto and Hilda Ruijs begin their pitch. Instead of simple solutions, problembased learning provides a deeper understanding of what might make up the solution. “There are countless right answers.” • • aaltoglobalimpact.org/pbl-east-africa
The makings of a solution
Finland’s ambassador to Kenya Tarja Fernández and Kenya’s Agriculture and Research Principal Secretary
Middleman sun-drying the maize in Njoro, Nakuru.
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Powering electric cars If public transport user Juuso Lindgren were to buy a car, it would be a fully electric one. Lindgren, whose doctoral thesis studied the charging of electric cars, rents out shared-use electric cars as his day job. He believes in crowd power when it comes to the promotion of sustainable energy use. Text: Marjukka Puolakka Photo: Jaakko Kahilaniemi THE FACTORS that favour electric cars
are their low use costs, efficient energy utilisation, cleaner city air and noiseless traffic. “Once the prices of electric cars fall in tandem with the development of battery technology, it will make economic sense to buy them instead of cars with internal combustion engines. You won’t even need to think like a hippy to come to that conclusion,” Juuso Lindgren notes. New charging stations are being opened at a rapid pace. For his doctoral thesis, Lindgren examined the operating and charging of hybrid electric cars in an urban environment. He used various computer simulations as aids. In addition to at home, electric cars are typically charged at workplace parking lots. But if all these cars are charged simultaneously at full power, there will be large consumption spikes. These could be evened out by, for example, limiting the total charging capacity of the parking lot. “Sharing capacity evenly with all cars works surprisingly well in workplace charging, even though some employees will leave work earlier and some will drive longer commutes.” And what about the location of charging posts? “Least effective is to place a single post in the corner of the lot where only one car can reach it. This actually happens. It makes more sense to place the post in a central spot so that it can serve several cars in more than one parking box.” Batteries take considerably longer to charge in cold weather. The fact that charging gets slower once the battery 46 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 22
reaches 80% charge level is also emphasised further in freezing weather. “Wintertime charging can be made much faster by heating the outside of a car and charging it in a heated parking garage.”
times around the world. The company now operates in Helsinki, Espoo and Jyväskylä, and will soon be expanding to Turku, among other places.
Lindgren took part in the Aalto University Energy Hackathon 2013 while Lindgren’s passion for sustainable energy working on his doctorate. The idea he use extends further than just the theoret- submitted to the competition dealt with ical level. As Chief Technology Officer energy and crowdfunding. The win of EkoRent Oy, he is involved in hiring eluded him, but what did happen was out cars that have zero local CO2 emisthe launch of a company called sions. EkoRent hires out fully electric Joukon Voima Oy, which he founded cars by the hour and provides a car-shar- together with Jukka Kajan and Lauri ing service with the aim of shifting trans- Neuvonen. port thinking away from the idea that Named the energy sector startup of everyone should own a car. After all, cars the year 2016, Joukon Voima provides are only being driven for about five pera platform for crowdfunding projects cent of their time. that support sustainable energy use. “It has been estimated that one shared Loan-based crowdfunding is being car could replace 15 private cars in used to realise both a solar-powered an apartment building. Some of our clicommercial centre in Espoo’s Finnoonents who live in apartment buildings portti and a Helsieni mushroom farm, have, in fact, given up their private vehiwhich utilises spent coffee grounds. cles and now drive an electrically powTogether with its Swedish partner ered car leased by the hour.” TRINE, Joukon Voima is also sourcEkoRent’s cars can be ordered through ing funding for the promotion of, among an app, which also unlocks the rental other things, solar power and female vehicle’s doors. What are their driving entrepreneurship in Kenya. properties like? Lindgren is sincerely excited about “The rapid depletion of the battery may the crowd getting behind sustainable surprise first-timers who put the pedal energy use. to the metal and run the AC on full blast. “It’s beautiful that people are pooling When driving more moderately in sumtheir strengths, in this case their money, mer conditions, the range is 160 kilometo realise meaningful projects, which tres and this climbs to 220 kilometres may otherwise not get off the ground.” with our newest cars.” Over the last three years, the growthJuuso Lindgren 16.2.2018: company’s cars have been used to cover Charging of plug-in electric a distance that reaches more than 15 vehicle fleets in urban environment.
Sharing electric cars
Photographs present sickness as personal experience
Tools for more sustainable ore exploration
THE DOCTORAL THESIS of Maija
sis, Tommi Kauppinen, M.Sc. (El.Eng.), developed tools for more sustainable and efficient ore exploration. Laser-based measurements are making the acquisition of mineral data constantly faster and more accurate. This makes decisionmaking easier and enables more sustainable approaches to ore exploration. Mathematics, for its part, helps combine the different levels of mining by considering both its financial productivity and the issue of ecological and social sustainability. The benefits of this research primarily relate to developing the use of linear programming in ore exploration. The results are helpful in automating and speeding up the analysis of core drill measurements. The study also produced mathematical methods to aid geologists at ore exploration sites, which speeds up the identification of deposits. Kauppinen also analysed the overall sustainability of ore exploration and, based on this, he introduces a mathematical method which helps alleviate the negative social and ecological impacts often associated with ore exploration. The linear programming methods employed have not earlier been applied in ore exploration as simply, yet reliably, as in this thesis. The results should have a positive impact on the sustainability of the global raw material markets. Kauppinen is convinced that the tools developed in his thesis will be used in ore exploration in the near future.
bit Fever (2016), do not aim to depict the experience of illness, but consider our relation to sickness and mortality in general. Leftover criticizes the cultural structure of cancer and emphasizes its statistical normality. White Rabbit Fever sets out to see if aesthetic disgust can function as one part of the art experience. Maija Tammi 12.12.2017: Sick photography – Representations of sickness in art photography.
Tommi Kauppinen 15.12.2017: Linear programming in planning and executing the exploration phase of mining.
Tammi, M.Soc.Sc., was inspired by how sickness has been represented in art photography. The research examines new ways to approach, think about and create photographic art about sickness. The dissertation combines theoretical research and artworks. Tammi analysed 67 photographic artworks against the framework of anthropologist Arthur Kleinman’s definitions of sickness, disease and illness. Most of the artworks concentrated on depicting personal experiences of illness and considered serious, life-threatening diseases. Tammi was surprised by the scarcity of social critique in the artworks. She considers disruptiveness and disgust in images of suffering, and argues that any disgust and abjection stem from the image’s proximity. The main results of the thesis, Tammi’s artworks Leftover (2014) and White Rab-
IN HIS SYSTEMS technology doctoral the-
All doctoral theses online: aaltodoc.aalto.fi, shop.aalto.fi
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Jouni Juntunen, what kind of consumer are you? The Professor of Practice recognises that he is an aware, but not quite the ideal consumer. Text: Tiiu Pohjolainen Photo: Veera Konsti
You specialise in sustainable production and consumption. What can the students look forward to from their new Professor? My first degree was from the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, which still influences my thinking. But that’s what your education is supposed to do, so it’s a good thing. Although my earlier career path had me doing technology-driven things in the corporate world, I drafted my doctoral thesis in economics and my thesis supervisor came from the School of Arts, Design and Architecture. My background is in product development, and it is precisely that expertise I wish to draw from and convey to the students. But I think I’ll refrain from pigeonholing myself, I prefer a multidisciplinary approach. You avoid being pigeonholed in housing, too. You have a home both in the city and in the country. I can’t recommend living in two homes to anybody, although it does open your eyes to how concretely consumption choices are tied to the environment. When teaching, I typically structure the topic through housing, transport, food and other consumption. Energy production is related to all of these in a cross-cutting way. In Helsinki, my family lives in an apartment with not many square metres and district heating. I’ve calculated the energy consumption of our city residence and found that this 48 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 22 21
mode of housing consumes about as much as would a single-family home with a floor area of 100 m2. On the other hand, our second home in the country uses electricity generated by wind turbines, air source heat pumps and wood-fired ovens. We also have the possibility to invest in, for example, geothermal heat in the countryside. The hands of the urbanite are more tightly bound. Do your transport arrangements differ between the city and the countryside? Yes. In the city, I mostly use an old women’s bicycle from the 1970s as my vehicle. Urban dwellers can make choices: walking, public transport and cycling are relevant alternatives to private cars. But our household also has a car, it is essential for rural living where distances are longer and the last bus leaves at four in the afternoon. Our best acquisition in ages has been an electric bike. We got it solely for the purpose of transporting our child, it’s an incredible gadget for urban mobility.
and Baltic herring. But our household does buy meat because we have a diabetic cat, who has the diet of a low-carb fanatic. As we spend part of the year in the countryside, we also grow some of our own food. I’m mostly good for providing labour, but the wife and I have managed to grow carrots, peas, herbs and various salads. When city people start pottering about in the field, they quickly realise how much work food production requires. You get off pretty easy when you just stroll to the shop to choose what you like.
Your speech has a northern twang. Where’d it come from? I was born in Vuolijoki, Kainuu, but I reckon I’m not really from anywhere as such. After graduating from secondary school, I spent over ten years in Oulu, from where I moved to China for work. That contract ended after three years, and one reason for not extending it was the poor air quality. Even though many expats decide to remain in orbit, we returned to Finland. If a consumer wants to make I started to further my studies in sustainable choices, what’s Helsinki by taking sustainability-related the easiest thing to influence? courses at the open university. They got Food. You can improve your environmen- me interested in writing a doctoral tal footprint significantly by just forethesis. going meat. I myself gave up meat more I recently heard the term midlife than a decade ago. I eat fish, but won’t career changer at an international contouch tuna. I’m embarrassed to even eat ference. I suppose I’m one of those. salmon. It would be good to steer your People change, we all slowly change. consumption towards Finnish lake fish As consumers as well. •
Dear climate change,
hate you. My life would be so easy without you. Everyday activities, career choices and even my relationships would be much easier without you hovering above like a grim storm cloud that casts a shadow on my life. When I shop for food, you are there in the store. When I travel to new countries, you’re there as well. And your presence is not always only of the silently disapproving kind: sometimes you laugh right in my face when you see my pathetic attempts to adjust my life to your capricious will. I don’t remember when you came into my life, but I well recall how. You were introduced to me as an inconvenient truth, and I received you seriously and attentively. I want you to know how much you influence my everyday thoughts and emotions. When I’m outdoors, no matter what the weather, you are on my mind. I think of you when it’s raining, when the sun’s shining, when the wind sways the branches. I hate you, and because of this I hate myself as well. Because of you, I feel a flash of sorrow when I see a red-hued sunset. I hate you and, consequently, other people because I cannot save them from the havoc you wreak. And once again, all the hate I target you with also reflects on me. To many people, you don’t even bother to point out the things you demand of me every day. Sometimes I catch myself wishing that you’d also come to Finland for real, so that others could see your true nature as well. Maybe then they would no longer see me as a miserable fool who gets anxious about the irrelevant and purposefully makes both his own life and that of others harder. I don’t know what to say. You just are. I know that we people, myself included, have been feeding you. We allowed you to be born and grow stronger in spite of our wishes. You’re too strong, and we humans are too weak-willed. I’m frustrated with feeling guilty. I’m angry and powerless. Ice sheets the size of Manhattan are plunging into the oceans and swooping away my undisturbed view of the world. The waves these ice blocks raise wash over me as sorrow, making it hard to stand tall. You show me how unpredictable the world is, which is why I have learned to push you away. Everything is too conflicted, I can’t keep my thoughts together. Without fossil fuels, I couldn’t take advantage of a world of the kind I live in today. I enjoy technology. I hate you. This conflict makes me anxious, I hate this situation. I understand that you’re going to be my life partner, so I want to get to know you. I’m learning rituals that will help me accept you. I’m curious to find out what kind of a life our encounter and the relinquishing of the familiar will give way to. They say that you’ll change everything. The more I think about you, the more I believe so, too. After all, you have already changed me. •
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These thoughts were written down by Aalto University students who participated in the Climate change and me – are you anxious? debate group in spring 2018. One of the students illustrated the letter by melting snow over the purewhite sheet of paper.
THIS ISSUE TALKS ABOUT
sustainable development water and food
This issue examines solutions for sustainable development.