Nanotechnology is the future, says Revolution Fibres co-founder and managing director Iain Hosie, and he is pushing to be at the leading edge.
"Over the last couple of years as people have started working directly with the materials and commercial products, the performance claims are starting to become realised and the cost of materials is coming down so it's a really exciting time to be working in the nanotech space because it's all achievable now," Hosie said.
"I think we're probably already at the stage where nanotechnology is changing everything we do."
Revolution Fibres uses electro-spinning technology to create nanofibres out of materials including collagen from hoki skin and plants, as well as more traditional materials such as nylon and polypropylene.
The company has more than 30 different material bases it uses to create the products, which Hosie describes as "essentially a fabric made up of extremely fine fibres".
Nanofibre, which is what the company makes, currently has the highest uptake of any nanotechnology.
Hosie, who studied biochemistry, has spent the past year with his team building partnerships in the United States based on several research and development programmes.
Some of the Auckland-based company's main projects have been around improving its nanofibre products and working on incorporating this into already available products.
The company's Nanofibre Customisation Services has produced several new products that are expected to be launched this year, including everything from satellite components and decontamination apparatus through to facemasks and functional foods.
"We're operating a service model which started out small but it would easily be about 40 per cent of our business now, on product development projects," Hosie said.
"We're looking at additional capabilities to our fibre range and that will also open up new opportunities, and we're getting a high amount of inquiries so once we get a lot of the same inquiries we start focusing our attention on that area."
Having a number of different materials to construct products from, as well as being able to customise products for its clients, had given Revolution Fibres a competitive advantage as well as flexibility in the market, he said.
Hosie said the company's growth had sprung from following market demands and trends, including in the respiratory space.
Hosie set up Revolution Fibres in 2000 with HRV co-founder Michael Perrett and Simon Feasey.
Perrett and Feasey wanted to build a better filtration system than was available at that time and the lightweight, close-knit nature of nanofibre fitted the brief perfectly.
However, it was not possible to source the amount required, and with a broader commercial demand for the material expected the trio decided to make it themselves.
"We're continuing work with HRV but we're also focusing a lot more on personal respirators," Hosie said.
"A massive need for humanity is filtering the air we breathe, it's a global concern. Being part of that new wave and that new awareness that people have about the effect air quality has on your health and being part of the forefront of that is really exciting."
Hosie said the US was going to remain a key market for the company in the coming few years, with Britain also a major client base.
Several other projects, including helping to develop filtration systems for Dubai's underground metro, were also on the table for the coming year.
Hosie said the technology was not overly complex and, because of its lightweight and compact nature, made an ideal export product.
"The great thing about nanofibre is that although the technology is advanced and sometimes complex, the end product is actually useful for everyday things," he said.
"It's not so high tech that it's out of this world. The good thing about it is it's so lightweight so it's very exportable."
Revolution Fibres is a typical high-tech manufacturing start-up, according to Hosie, where the company had to understand the technology and then build the machines around the new technology.
This process had taken the better part of three years and about $3 million in investment to get to the point where the fibre could be produced, but Hosie said the company had come out the other side and was profitable, having secured several innovation and high tech awards, and was looking at its next strategic step.
What is nanotechnology?
%bull; The science of working with particles smaller than 100 nanometres.
%bull; The width of one hair is 100,000 nanometres. To be classified as nanotechnology, the matter has to be 1000 times smaller.