Our world leading research drives value creation from farm to floor across the wool supply chain.
AgResearch is investigating the biodegradability of wool and wool textiles, compared to other fibre types, in the aquatic environment. This is of particular importance because of growing concerns about synthetic microfibre pollution of the oceans.
This work requires the development of new experimental methodologies, but we have confirmed that wool readily biodegrades in the marine environment, and observed the breakdown behaviour. We determined that wool’s rapid biodegradation means that it has a low end-of-life environmental impact compared to synthetic fibres.
Product end of life
We are investigating waste carpet as a resource to produce chemical products. In initial trials we used a hydrothermal degradation process at differing temperatures and pressure, and results have shown it is possible to break whole carpet down into a residue that is primarily acetic acid.
Is it New Zealand wool? Isotopic tracer technology developed at AgResearch can deliver confidence around the geographical source of fibre.
While wool is intrinsically hydrophobic and will naturally resist staining, AgResearch continues to develop stain resist technologies that give confidence to consumers that their carpet will look good for longer.
AgResearch has developed a new method of improving stain resistance in carpets.
Using test methods AATCC Test Method 175-2008 and AATCC Test Method 130-2008, we showed that wool carpets performed better against red wine staining than solution-dyed nylon carpet, and only marginally worse than nylon against acid red dyeing.
This treatment showed excellent durability to multiple shampooing with only marginal reduction in stain-resist performance observed after 10 cycles of shampooing. This treatment process can also be undertaken during stock dyeing.
The removal of indoor air contaminants
Indoor air pollutants can lead to discomfort, reduced productivity of employees and even ill health.
Research by AgResearch scientists has revealed that wool carpets significantly improve indoor air quality by rapidly absorbing the common pollutants formaldehyde, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.
Not only does wool neutralise the contaminants more quickly and completely than synthetic carpet fibres, wool does not re-emit them, even when heated. Wool carpet may continue purifying the air for up to 30 years.
Research has shown that unlike synthetic products, wool apparel does not get smelly when worn repeatedly. We took this research into the realm of carpets.
Using a pack of hunting dogs, we placed carpets made of wool, nylon and Trixeta onto their beds. After three months we then measured the odour levels. This was done using SIFT-MS and a ‘super sniffer’ (yes, there is such a person!) Wool outperformed the other products, remaining significantly less odourous.
Wool’s inherent ability to absorb and desorb large quantities of moisture vapour allows it to buffer changes in the relative humidity in a room.
The thermal insulation properties of wool carpets are valuable in two respects; fuel saving and apparent comfort to the occupants of the building.
Building design has a strong influence on the potential savings in energy for heating or air conditioning; single story buildings with ventilated floors will clearly benefit the most from insulating properties of carpets. Energy savings of 5-13% from using wool carpets have been recorded in practical situations.
When wool carpets are exposed to light, particularly sunlight, visible colour changes can sometimes be observed, especially in pastel shades.
Extensive research by AgResearch resulted in a patented method of eliminating the effect of photobleaching using Lanalbin® APB liquid, a dyebath additive or Lanalbin® S, an in-scour application.
Insect resist treatment
Wool, being a protein fibre, is a natural food source for a small number of insects. AgResearch has developed a solution that stops insects damaging carpet, while being biodegradable and safer for the environment than insecticides.
Surfactant-based Ecolan CEA can be applied to wool during dyeing. This protects wool from insect attack. This product is marketed by Chemcolour Industries NZ Ltd (New Zealand).
Acoustic advantages of wool carpeting
The acoustic properties of wool carpets provide benefits that should be considered when choosing floor coverings. At home, the noise reducing properties of carpets provide comfort, and at the office, they increase job satisfaction and performance.
Carpets control noise by reducing the floor noise, absorbing airborne noise and minimising the transmission of noise through floors into other rooms.
The AgResearch Bioproduct and Fibre Technology team has experience in the acoustic properties of carpets, having performed investigations for several textile companies.
The impact and control of noise is becoming more important as we live and work more closely together. Most of us want our homes to be quiet retreats from a noisy world. Offices too are becoming noisier as individual work spaces become smaller.