New applications for wool and other natural fibres are expected from an international collaboration between Deakin University, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and Tufts University in the United States.
This initiative recently received Australian Research Council Discovery Project funding and is expected to run over the next three years.
Professor Xungai Wang, project leader and head of Deakin’s Centre for Material and Fibre Innovation says that while we tend to think of natural protein fibres like wool and silk being used mainly in textile applications, this research will investigate turning these natural fibres into fine powders which could lead to a whole new set of uses – artificial skins, medical bandages and pollution absorbers.
Senior Deakin researcher Dr Takuya Tsuzuki says
“We believe these new types of ‘green’ nanomaterials that are made from renewable raw materials will be biocompatible – compatible with living tissue – and biodegradable. We also think they will have a carbon-neutral nature in the entire product cycle from synthesis to disposal.
One of the aims of the project is to produce a platform technology with ‘green’ organic micro and nano particles that have a wide range of applications.”
“As well as supporting the Australian wool industry, this work could underpin the development of a future sustainable protein fibre industry..
It could also assist in recycling and reducing current high levels of product lost to waste,” says Professor Wang.
The research focus in animal fibre research is on innovative processing and application of animal fibres, particularly Australian merino wool. In collaboration with Wuhan University of Science and Engineering and Beijing Institute of Clothing Technology, wool fibres have been converted into very fine powders and then used to produce new hybrid fibres with enhanced properties.
Just thinking how our wool growers have diminished over the last decade and the difference this has made to local economies, the thought of a resurgence in the wool industry through sustainability is certainly very welcome.
Would we as consumers choose an item made from a fibre that is recyclable/sustainable/NON landfill fodder over a comparable/perhaps slightly cheaper garment that is NON-recyclable/landfill destined? I wonder, given of course that the fashion component is equal.
Given a good marketing campaign who knows?
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