A Kiwi company is working to develop a biodegradable face mask made of wool, to protect users against COVID-19.
Lincoln Agritech, a research and development company owned by Lincoln University, on Friday received $290,000 in Government funding to drive the project forward.
"This research will use newly-developed technology that completely changes the physical form of the wool fibre, creating the light, paper-like membranes that look and feel much more like the PPE masks we typically see mass produced," said Dr Rob Kelly, new materials group manager at Lincoln Agritech.
Dr Kelly said wool was an ideal material for the filtration and binding needed to develop PPE, but its coarse structure could present limitations.
Funding for the 18-month programme comes from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's $13.57 million COVID Innovation Acceleration fund.
It will go towards an 18-month research programme that uses patented technology from the Wool Research Organisation (WRONZ) to change the physical format of the fibre and improve its absorption and virus-neutralising properties.
Kelly says the masks would be both highly effective and environmentally sustainable.
The new format also enhanced the absorbency and binding properties of wool, making the fibre even more suitable for PPE use, he said.
"Achieving this with an abundant, sustainable material seemed an appropriate way for New Zealand to respond now and prepare itself for the future."