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A global initiative on sustainable fibers

We aim to combine the creative efforts of global & local stakeholders to create knowledge and foster technological developments that promote responsible and sustainable practices for fiber production, sourcing, conversion and utilization

Learn more about this initiative 

About SAFI

Established in July 2021, the Sustainable and Alternative Fibers Initiative (SAFI) is the major global university-industry partnership effort focused on researching, developing, and utilizing alternative fibers to manufacture a myriad of sustainable products. Several challenges and uncertainties prevent the full-scale adoption of alternative fibers; some of those uncertainties relate to the perceived vs. real sustainability of these alternative fibers, their performance, and the capital investment required.

Research areas

All steps in fiber production from agricultural residues and purposely grown fibers are evaluated to gain insights into their availability, biomass, cost and feedstock delivered cost.

This area focuses on determining the chemical composition (lignin, cellulose, hemicellulose, extractives, and ash) and fiber morphology of the different non-wood feedstock to understand their potential.

The conversion area aims to develop, evaluate and optimize sustainable pulping processes for alternative fibers. Conversion methods rely on traditional and nontraditional chemical, mechanical and thermomechanical pulping processes.

  • Spent liquor characterization
    This sub-area was created due to the importance of expand the use of all streams in the pulping process. From the isolation to the potential application of lignosulfonates, the goal of this sub-area is to diversify products derived from non-woody biomass pulping.

SAFI team evaluates fiber, pulp, and materials properties to match the application with those to manufacture sustainable products.

Our team simulates conversion processes, models their mass and energy balances to size equipment, and thus estimates capital investment, financial return, and implied quantitative risks.

Sustainability is core at SAFI. Life cycle assessment (LCA) models are used to assess environmental burdens associated with the production of the biomass and their conversion to fibers and final products.

Understanding consumer perception toward goods containing sustainable fibers is a crucial research area for SAFI. This research area aims to develop data-based communication strategies to connect with sustainable-oriented customers and understand their perceptions and behavior.

Latest news

SAFI is excited to host our third In-person Meeting on January 21st and 22nd, 2025. This event will provide an opportunity for our consortium members, including industrial and university partners, to engage directly with our team and receive the latest updates and results from each research area. We look forward to fostering enhanced interactions and welcoming our members to this important gathering at the NC State University Campus in Raleigh, NC, USA!

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SAFI In-person meeting 2023

Student spotlight

Keren Vivas - Sustainable and Alternative Fibers Initiative - College of Natural Resources at NC State University

Keren Vivas is a doctoral candidate and research leader at the SAFI Consortium at NC State University. She earned her Chemical Engineering degree from the University of Los Andes, Venezuela in 2019 with Cum Laude honors.

Alongside her Ph.D. in the Department of Forest Biomaterials (expected to be completed by Spring 2025), she is pursuing two graduate certificates: one in Applied Statistics and Data Management from the Department of Statistics, and one in Marketing from the Department of Business Administration. As the Consumer Perception and Techno-Economics Team leader at SAFI, her work is focused on evaluating consumer perception and the economic feasibility of selected alternative fibers suitable for hygiene tissue application. This work encompasses plantation economics, techno-economics, and consumer perception research.

During her academic journey, Keren has had several opportunities to showcase her professional development through being the main author and co-author of scientific publications, as well as serving as a conference speaker and poster presenter. Additionally, she has had the honor of working at the Kimberly-Clark Innovation and Operational Excellence Center in Neenah, WI, as a Business Development Summer Intern in 2023 and 2024. 


For more information, contact her at kvivasm@ncsu.edu