NEW ZEALAND: Keratec May Revolutionise Wool Industry
Woolgrowers struggling for profitability within the textile industry could find fortune in an entirely new industry courtesy of the Wool Research Organisation's Keratec project, the New Zealand Herald reported today.Wool Research Organisation (WRO) managing director Garth Carnaby said that Keratec dissolved wool, turning it into a water-soluble protein powder that could be used in a wide range of new consumer products - from cosmetics for skin, hair and fingernails to a tough but flexible paint-like film, food binders, and even fibre - but one so fine it would look more like silk than wool.Dr Carnaby said that several international firms are "exceedingly" interested in using Keratec to manufacture new consumer products. He added that it had taken around four years to crack the chemistry: "You can dissolve wool but you end up with rubbish. To dissolve it and keep all the valuable proteins is the hard bit." There are thousands of proteins in wool which can be grouped for their uses into a small number of broad types. The keratin protein is the same one humans have in skin, hair and fingernails, "so we have a material that is ideally suited for product development in the high-value, personal grooming areas," he said.But just how many different products will come out of the factory as raw material for new industries is still not determined, and NZ-based WRO is keeping quiet while it talks to potential customers.However, in WRO's 1999 annual report, Dr Carnaby forecast that in 2010 around 10 per cent of New Zealand's 194,000-tonne annual wool clip could be manufactured into new keratin products. "We are certainly planning on a factory capability of industrial scale," he said. "We can already make a bucketful - a few hundred kilograms - without any trouble."
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