November 2, 2016

Finnish research develops leaf-processing tech

In addition to pigments, autumn leaves contain many beneficial compounds, such as phenols, lignin, carbohydrates and protein.
In addition to pigments, autumn leaves contain many beneficial compounds, such as phenols, lignin, carbohydrates and protein.
Istock.com/tbralnina

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is exploring the properties of autumn leaves for use in the cosmetics, textile and feed and food industries.

The range of interesting substances being investigated by VTT include pigments, carbohydrates, proteins and compounds that inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria.

These can have various health-promoting effects, as well as be used as nutraceuticals and to colour cosmetics and textiles.

Residual biomass remaining after extraction is also nutrient-rich and suitable for soil improvement in home gardens. This waste can also be further processed to compounds that inhibit the growth of harmful microbes for use in the cosmetics, hygiene and pharmaceutical sectors.

“In laboratory experiments, we discovered several, promising alternative ways of utilising leaves,” states VTT senior scientist Liisa Nohynek. “Piloting assays are under way, in which we are examining how our methods work in practice and what quantities of valuable compounds can be extracted from the leaves.”

Alongside these processing stages, R&D has now entered the piloting stage, using leaf material collected by waste disposal company Lassila & Tikanoja.

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