Lincoln Agritech to create wool-based PPE masks


New Zealand wool-based PPE masks will utilise the absorption and virus-neutralising properties of our wool, making the masks both highly effective and environmentally sustainable. Image: Louise Thomas.

Lincoln Agritech's New Materials Team has been allocated $290,000 from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment COVID-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund (CIAF) 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 the absorption and virus-neutralising properties of wool, 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 reducing the environmental impact of PPE use.

Funding for the programme comes from the $13.57m COVID Innovation Acceleration fund (CIAF), announced by MBIE in March this year as a means of boosting New Zealand’s ability to respond to current and future pandemics.

Dr Rob Kelly, New Materials Group Manager at Lincoln Agritech, said that wool was an ideal material for the filtration and binding needed to develop PPE, but its coarse structure could present limitations.

“This research will use newly-developed technology that completely changes the physical form of the wool fibre, creating the light, paper-like membranes that look and feel much more like the PPE masks we typically see mass produced.”

Dr Kelly said the new format also enhanced the absorbency and binding properties of wool, making the fibre even more suitable for PPE use.

“Achieving this with an abundant, sustainable material seemed an appropriate way for New Zealand to respond now and prepare itself for the future.”

Lincoln Agritech has established its wool research and product development capability due to several years of partnership with the wool industry through WRONZ, its research subsidiary Wool Industry Research Ltd (WIRL) and MBIE.

The Lincoln Agritech team will be working closely with WRONZ and local manufacturers, including Christchurch-based FibreTech New Zealand, with assistance from Auckland filter experts, Lanaco.

More Information

See “Canterbury company gets govt funding to create Covid masks” in the ODT's Star News.

See Lincoln Agritech.

Date posted: 23 June 2020

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