Südwolle Group has launched a new environmentally sustainable technology for treating wool fibres, which it claims is a "huge environmental leap forward and sets a new standard for wool processing".

The world's largest spinner of pure wool and wool blend worsted yarns for weaving, circular and flat knitting says the Naturetexx plasma treatment is an alternative to the current industry standard superwash, chlorine-hercosett process.

The company has refined the process for producing the plasma treated yarns following its acquisition of the Richter F+A dye house and treatment facility in Stadtallendorf, Germany - which possesses the technology - in 2014. The process, which uses electricity and air, is a "huge environmental leap forward, and sets a new standard for wool processing", according to Südwolle marketing manager Hamish Allan.

"In addition to washability, Naturetexx Plasma delivers fibres with the same strength, the same or better pilling performance, and improved ability to absorb moisture than conventionally processed yarns," explains Allan.

Plasma is created by controlled discharge of an electric voltage across a non-conducting gas. The voltage ionises the gas into a more reactive fundamental state. When the wool top passes through the plasma field, the surface of the fibre reacts with the energised gas, modifying the cuticle scales and removing the wool felting effect.

The process has been certified organic under the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and IVN Best systems, and is currently undergoing the Bluesign certification.

Südwolle says it is investing "significant resources" to speed production capacity, and once modifications are complete, it will be able to process up to 1.5m kilos per annum on a dedicated production line. "With this scale will come the consistency and efficiency which will make this technology a real commercial alternative," adds Allan.

The Naturetexx Plasma treatment has been awarded the Outdoor Industry Gold Award 2015 in the category of 'Sustainable Innovators'.