Lupine in review, fibers of the future
A research and developmental project, executed in the years of 2020-2022. The purpose of this project is to investigate the potential use of fibous material, processed from the Alaska lupine (Lupinus nootkatensis). A central issue for further product development of the fibous material was to determine its chemical contents as well as its characteristics. The project´s innovation is the utilization of local plant biomass. On one hand as a building material and on the other hand as a raw material for food packaging. A sustainable source for an eco-friendly product.
The main partners of the project were Matis and the IceTec. The project was funded by the Technology Development Fund.

In the middle of the last century, seeds and roots of the Lupinus nootkatensis were brought to Iceland to be used in land reclamation. For a long time, the specie’s distribution was limited, but in the 90’s the species started to spread out and is now widespread throughout the country. The current yield in the south of Iceland alone amounts to 7-8 tons of lupine per hectare a year. The fiber of the lupine plant is a type of non-wood fiber.
Part of the project was to figure out how we could collect a considerable amount of raw material from the lupine plant, using equipment that could be obtained without much cost. We tried various tools and devices. The picture on the left shows a tractor connected to a device we used to shred and collect the raw material. This device proved useful for gathering the lupine aerial parts.
The next step was to figure out how we could dry the raw material in significant quantities. At the farm Þorvaldseyri, we had the opportunity to experiment with drying the lupine’s raw material in the barn air dryer. It worked well and we had enough supplies of lupine fiber material to experiment with for the next year.

Non-wood fibers possess a rich variety of excellent properties in physical and optical aspects, which could be used in the field of pulp and papermaking. Pulp making refers to the use of a chemical method, mechanical method, or a combination of these two methods. As raw materials, plant fibers are made into bleached or unbleached pulp by the dissociation production process.
Matis was in charge of chemically controlled degradation experiments such as with acid, base and enzymes. Matis also took care of various types of measurements such as textural, chemical, quinolizidine and microbial analysis. In collaboration with Matis, we were able to develop a method to produce a fibrous material that is safe in contact with food.

In collaboration with Matis, a reproducible up-scaled method was developed and provided a safe material that can be utilized to produce durable, safe, food packaging.

The processing method chosen for scale-up trial was based on the results obtained from the different measurements performed on the different materials. For sustainability reasons the aerial parts after seeding were chosen.

The purpose of this part of the project was to test lupine fiber material in the field of building materials. Environmentally friendly fiber-boards were made without any additives. IceTec was brought in to carry out measurements and tests on the fiber-boards. The tests were; tensile strength, elastic constant, moisture absorption, moisture expansion, water absorption, sound absorption, mold sensitivity and retention. In general, various aspects of the production of the fiber material would need to be improved, in particular the uniformity of production. It would then be necessary to develop an environmentally friendly moisture barrier for the fiber material to improve its resistance to moisture and mold.

We believe that there are many possible uses for fiber material made from Alaska lupine because the material is able to be formed into many shapes and molds and can be cut with various tools. The main challenge is to be able to protect the material from moisture so that it can be used in the most diverse ways.

Our ideal and the project’s main goal has always been that the fiber material should be environmentally friendly and can fall into the cycle of nature after its purpose and use. We also believe it is extremely important that the resource is used in a sustainable manner. Lupine in review, fibers of the future.

Technology Development Fund was the main funder of the project.
© The Lupine project / Efnasmiðjan ehf. - 2023  | All rights reserved.