Funding is provided for research on a new use for wool – to make high-performance PPE masks

Lincoln Agritech, a research and development company owned by Lincoln University, has received $290,000 in government funding to create biodegradable wool-based PPE masks for the COVID-19 pandemic response.

The 18-month research programme is using patented technology from the Wool Research Organisation (WRONZ) to change the physical format of the fibre and improve its absorption and virus-neutralising properties, making the masks both highly effective and environmentally sustainable.

The resulting products will reduce dependence on overseas producers, particularly during high-demand pandemic events, as well as decreasing the environmental impact of PPE use.

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NASA is evaluating New Zealand wool technology

A New Zealand-developed, wool-based filter technology is one of several filter systems being evaluated by NASA to protect astronauts in the Orion spacecraft on upcoming deep-space exploration missions.

Designed by Auckland based wool innovators Lanaco, the HelixTM filter is sourced from the company’s purpose bred AstinoTM sheep and is being tested for use in Orion’s emergency life-support system in the event of on-board fires.

The Helix filter could be used as a pre-filter layer for emergency personal equipment and cabin air systems, preventing clogging in other filter layers by removing thick contaminants like molten plastic.

Shaun Tan, Lanaco Head of Technology, recently returned from the Johnson Space Centre in Houston and is confident that the Helix filter can deliver on NASA’s requirements.

“In the case of the Orion life-support system, the Helix filter is being tested for particle loading capacity, breathability, flame resistance and the ability to function even if exposed to Orion’s water-based fire extinguisher systems,” says Dr Tan.

“The Helix filter is currently used in protective equipment in high contaminant situations like construction and mining, but firefighting in space represents a new challenge for our R&D team.” 

Lanaco’s wool-filter technology made headlines in 2017 following the launch of anti-pollution face masks now popular in several Asian and Indian mega-cities.

Lanaco CEO Nick Davenport says that recent successes demonstrate the versatility and effectiveness of wool-based air filtration.

“Wool is an outstanding fibre. Its electrostatic properties catch small harmful particles, its protein structure captures gases and harmful toxins and yet the fibre is bacteria and flame resistant. We believe in wool as a sustainable, innovative solution to combat air-pollution,” says Mr Davenport.

“The Lanaco story is one of New Zealand high-country farmers producing the world’s greatest natural fibre to protect people from poor quality air. To now be playing a role in supporting deep space exploration is a testament to the farmers, scientists and manufacturers that have pushed Lanaco to the forefront of filter technology.”

Source: Lanaco

AgResearch helps with the development of pollution masks using wool filters

As air quality becomes an increasing concern for people around the world, AgResearch has announced it is doing its part in the development of innovative pollution masks .

AgResearch scientists have worked with fibre innovation company Lanaco (formerly Texus Fibre) in the development of its wool filter technology that traps harmful substances before the users breathe them in, as well as being easy to breathe through.

The technology is used in pollution masks now being marketed around the world.

The products launched to date include one mask branded the “world’s most breathable urban lifestyle air pollution mask”, and another range launched recently by Auckland firm Healthy Breath working with leading fashion designer Karen Walker.

“Basically we sat down with Lanaco and applied our specific knowledge to figure out what sort of wool would work best in the filters, which sheep we need to get the wool from and how best to source it,” says AgResearch Science Team Leader Stewart Collie.

“It’s fantastic to see New Zealand wool being a foundation for these products that will be used around the world to improve peoples’ health, and our science being a part of that too.”

“We are now entering into the next phase in our relationship with Lanaco around the research and development going into the filter technology, and we’re excited to continue to play a part in the continued growth of these products.”

Lanaco Chief Executive Nick Davenport says his company, in partnership with AgResearch, has been able to develop  a revolutionary, high-value product using local science, research and development “right here in New Zealand”.

The product will improve the health of millions of people worldwide while providing an opportunity for New Zealand farmers and economic benefit through increased demand and value of wool.