Wool. You use that to make itchy jumpers. Right? Wrong. At least not in New Zealand.
Wool is one of the original super fibres with production and uses that date back approximately 10,000 years in Asia Minor. Its natural, renewable and biodegradable qualities are creating waves of interest as innovators look to sustainable alternatives to synthetic fibres.
Wool's advantage doesn't stop there. It has many safety benefits too. This breathable fibre helps control humidity and keeps you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Plus, it’s flame retardant!
And in New Zealand, there is plenty of sheep and plenty of ingenious people. Here are four amazingly innovative ways Kiwis are using wool.
Air-filtering face masks
MEO™ is helping people breathe easy with air-filtering face masks made from New Zealand Merino wool. The natural wool fibres within the Helix™ Filters, developed by Kiwi company Lanaco, allow for super breathable airflow that captures particles, reduces noxious gases, and inhibits growth of bacteria.
NASA and Lanaco are testing New Zealand wool filters on Orion's emergency life-support system in the event of onboard fires. The Helix™ Filter could be used as a pre-filter layer for emergency personal equipment and cabin air systems, preventing clogging in other filter layers by removing thick contaminants such as molten plastic.
When Kiwi surfboard maker Paul Barron accidentally spilt resin onto his sweater it sparked an idea to make surfboards out of wool. After years of R&D he, with help from New Zealand Merino, created a wool-based substance that’s replacing fibreglass in the surfboard manufacturing process. And it wasn't long before Barron’s idea caught the attention of Firewire Surfboards, a company majority-owned by 11-time surfing world champion Kelly Slater, leading to a global partnership of an entirely new type of surfboard.
Tim Brown is a Kiwi entrepreneur and co-founder of Allbirds which makes and sells New Zealand merino wool shoes. Named the most comfortable shoes in the world by Time Magazine, Allbirds are the shoe of choice for hipsters and techies from San Francisco to Wellington, New Zealand.
So, if you want to see sheep wool meet out-of-this-world ideas, we know a place.