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Nanotechnology meets fish skin

09 Aug, 2010

Source: Revolution Fibre

A New Zealand company is using nanotechnology to turn old fish skin into 100% biodegradable, antibacterial air filters – a New Zealand first.

Nanotechnology is the study of the controlling of matter on an atomic and molecular scale.

Revolution Fibres is close to making an air filter made of nanoparticle-sized fibres that are ‘spun’ from collagen or protein taken from discarded hoki fish skins.

The extremely fine nanofibres are up to 500 times thinner than a human hair, and initial uses are clothing, filters, electronics and packaging. The fibres are also extremely strong.

Revolution Fibres’ first commercial product will be air filter mats for New Zealand ventilation company HRV. The biodegradable mats are created by diffusing the nanofibres onto a plate made from reformed potato starch.

“It is a good use of something that would normally be chucked away,” says Revolution Fibres technical director Iain Hosie.

“What is good about biomaterials is it means you stay away from plastic and petrol chemical-based products.”

To make the fibres, the company is building a commercial-scale version of a laboratory-scale electro-spinning machine used by government research company Plant & Food Research in its pioneering research into electro-spinning fibres.

“Air filters are one of many products that have been hugely improved with the use of nanotechnology. We could also use this technology for industries as diverse as medical, textiles and even electronics – using New Zealand-sourced natural materials to make mats for air filters that are clean and green,” Mr Hosie says.

The biodegradable air filters will soon be available through HRV.

The larger commercial-scale electro-spinning machine is being built with the support of $456,000 in TechNZ investment awarded this year.

Revolution Fibres was established with investment by TechNZ, the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology’s business assistance programme.

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