From lab to golden opportunity with wool

By Siobhan Leathley

Photo / David White
Photo / David White

A partnership between a Victoria University professor and his former student has led to a startup which has developed technology to alter the colour and properties of wool.

Chemical and physical sciences professor Jim Johnston worked with former PhD student Kerstin Lucas to create start-up Nobel Bond.

The startup will produce two products - Aulana which alters wool's colour and NgaPure which acts as a disinfectant.

Aulana used small particles of real gold to alter the colour of woollen garments.

Johnston and Lucas created pink, blue and grey woollens, by making these particles stick permanently to the wool.

Johnston tried similar experiments with silver, which shared similar properties to gold. However, unlike gold, sunlight interfered with these particles and continued to alter the wool's colour.

Instead, he used silver's antimicrobial properties to create NgaPure, which protected wool against germs.

The technology permanently bound silver to one of wool's amino acids, Cystine, which would not wash out.

"Aulana is a very romantic, luxurious product, while NgaPure is more functional," Lucas said.

The two partnered with Wellington incubator Creative HQ to grow Noble Bond.

Creative HQ venture manager Nick Churchouse said Johnston had reached a point where he and Lucas needed help to explore Noble's potential.

"Bringing on board Creative HQ meant they could take the seeds they had planted and turn these into concrete revenue streams, agreements and partnerships."

He said there had been a great deal of interest from potential investors, and that a partnership could emerge soon.

Steven Parsons innovation manager for Wools of New Zealand, which is undertaking marketing for the start-up, said he had spent several years working with Johnston to link Aulana and NgaPure with global textile brands.

"Aulana and NgaPure are very clever inventions, but more than that Noble Bond and Wools of NZ have worked together to ensure that these inventions will be commercially successful," Parsons said.

He said the commercial interiors sector and the knitwear industry showed high-demand for NgaPure's antimicrobial properties.

"The very exclusive Aulana product is wanted by luxury textile manufacturers that service the tailors on London's Savile Row."

Parsons said the technology benefited wool in a way which could not be achieved with existing techniques.

"NgaPure has solved a problem that our customers did not know they had," he said.

"Creating textiles that are permanently antimicrobial via NgaPure gives our customers a major competitive edge."

- NZ Herald

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