Wool and other natural fibers are about to get makeovers to be used for more innovative purposes than just jumpers and cardigans.
The new applications are expected from an international collaboration between Deakin University, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization and Tufts University in Massachusetts. The initiative recently received Australian Research Council Discovery Project funding.
"Traditionally, we think of natural protein fibers like wool and silk mainly being used in textile applications,'' explained Professor Xungai Wang, project leader and head of Deakin's Center for Material and Fiber Innovation. "This research will explore how we can turn these natural fibers into fine powders and make them available for a new generation of uses, such as artificial skins, medical bandages and pollution absorbers.''
Deakin senior research academic Takuya Tsuzuki, Ph.D., said the project was good news for the environment.
"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,'' Tsuzuki said.
Suzanne Smith, Ph.D., an Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization senior research fellow, explained more about the powders and their potential benefits.
"This is an exciting journey which may lead to a new range of environmentally friendly products which can be used to absorb and clean up pollutants. These would be biodegradable and have extraordinary behavior characteristics such as faster and higher absorption rates than current products,'' she said. "Natural powder products such as wool and silk are biocompatible, potentially making them ideal for wound protection, artificial skin or even drug delivery.''
Reprinted in part from Geelong Advertiser, AU