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Wool Proves Its Worth In Respirator Market

CSIRO Textile and Fibre Technology scientist, Dr Jurg Schutz.
by Staff Writers
Canberra, Australia (SPX) Jul 02, 2008
Cutting-edge wool textile technology developed by CSIRO for industrial air filtration systems has found its first lucrative commercial application in the manufacture of respirators for the personal protective equipment (PPE) market.

Developed in collaboration with Australian Wool Innovation Ltd. and Michell Pty Ltd, the new filters consist of a combination of wool and synthetic fibres.

Project leader Dr Jurg Schutz says independent tests confirmed the new filters outperform a range of commercially available competitive products.

"The secret to efficient fibre-based filtration is the application of an electrostatic charge to the fibres during production of the non-woven filter mat," he says. "These electrostatic charges attract dust and pollutant particles, and hold them in the filter, greatly improving efficiency."

CSIRO's researchers optimised the wool/synthetic fibre blend ratio, and developed manufacturing processes for the production of the electrostatically-charged filter material.

One of Australia's largest wool exporters, Michell Pty Ltd, provided financial support for CSIRO's fibre selection trials and an independent assessment which confirmed that the wool-rich filters out-performed 100 per cent-synthetic filters.

The company's Managing Director, Peter Michell, says his company has recently secured a commercial commitment from one of the world's major producers of personal respirators for the production and Australian distribution of over 500,000 personal respirators and refill cartridges fitted with wool-rich filters in the next year.

"This proves that while the transfer of laboratory technology to successful commercial manufacturing is a very high-risk process, collaborations between CSIRO, AWI and Michell Pty Ltd can result in commercial success," Mr Michell says.

Other industrial applications for wool-rich industrial filters are under development as wool begins to regain the market share in filter media that it held decades ago.

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