Wool cells used for new ma­te­rial

Otago Daily Times - - BUSINESS & MONEY - SALLY RAE

DECONSTRUCTION of coarse wool fi­bre to cre­ate new ma­te­ri­als has been de­scribed as a ‘‘ma­jor break­through’’.

Re­searchers at Lin­coln Agritech Ltd have bro­ken down coarse wool — which com­prises about 75% of New Zealand’s wool clip — into its cel­lu­lar com­po­nents, cre­at­ing new ma­te­ri­als that are not wool but con­tain wool at­tributes.

The work was part of a $21 mil­lion seven­year re­search pro­gramme into new uses for coarse wool, co­funded by the Wool Re­search Or­gan­i­sa­tion of New Zealand (WRONZ) and the Min­istry for Busi­ness, In­no­va­tion and Em­ploy­ment.

The work, which be­gan in 2016, was be­ing un­der­taken via WRONZ wholly­owned sub­sidiary Wool In­dus­try Re­search Ltd, led by Dr Garth Carn­aby.

Lead re­searcher Dr Rob Kelly, of Lin­coln Agritech, was ex­plor­ing po­ten­tial uses for the new fi­bre with WRONZ mem­ber com­pa­nies with ex­per­tise in cos­met­ics, fil­ters and lux­ury cloth­ing.

In a state­ment, WRONZ chair­man Der­rick Mil­ton said the or­gan­i­sa­tion was de­lighted its ef­forts to find new uses for coarse wool had made sig­nif­i­cant progress.

‘‘Suc­cess­fully de­con­struct­ing coarse wool to cre­ate new ma­te­ri­als is a ma­jor break­through that has the po­ten­tial to add huge value to the wool in­dus­try. Al­though scale­up and com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion is still some way off, WRONZ will work with its mem­ber­ship to maxi­ mise value for New Zealand wool grow­ers,’’ he said.

ASB’s lat­est Com­modi­ties Weekly re­port said prices for all wool types were ex­pected to drift lower. The global econ­omy was ‘‘slow­ing a touch’’, no­tably in China.

Mid­mi­cron prices were ex­pected to re­main at healthy lev­els, but coarse wool prices looked likely to ease to­wards re­cent lows.

Coarse wool prices re­mained low com­pared with his­tor­i­cal av­er­ages. De­spite ro­bust global growth, 39 mi­cron wool prices re­mained stuck 21% be­low post­2015 av­er­ages.

Mid­mi­cron prices have lifted over 2018 as healthy global growth trans­lated to higher de­mand for ap­parel. Prices for 29 mi­cron wool have lifted 16% so far this year.

PHOTO: ODT FILES

Ready for shear­ing . . . New uses are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for coarse wool.

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