A $290,000 grant from the Government has kickstarted an 18-month programme using patented technology developed by the Wool Research Organisation that enables the physical nature of the wool fibres to be altered to improve the absorption and virus-neutralising properties.
The funding has come from the $13.5 million Covid Innovation Acceleration fund announced in March.
Lincoln Agritech new materials group manager Dr Rob Kelly said wool’s ability to filter and bind made it ideal material for personal protective equipment, but its coarse structure could be limiting.
“This research uses newly-developed technology that completely changes the physical form of the wool fibre, creating light, paper-like membranes that look and feel much more like the PPE masks we typically see mass produced,” he said.
The wool’s natural absorbency and binding properties were also enhanced under the process, increasing the material’s suitability for PPE use.
The development programme will be working alongside local manufacturers including FibreTech and PPE mask filter company Lanaco.
Lanaco has been tasked with providing wool-based filters for the NASA Orion space project where the material’s fire retardant capabilities have drawn engineers’ attention.