Kiwi wool filter company Lanaco supplies Nasa
Catherine Harris 11:10, Aug 04 2020
Nasa will use filters made of wool made by Kiwi company Lanaco on future manned missions to the Moon and Mars.
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An Auckland company which makes filters based on wool has been selected by US space agency Nasa to supply its next mission to the Moon and Mars.
Lanaco makes respiratory filters and devices using wool from specially selected sheep flocks in Central Otago.
The company’s Helix filters, which are used by a number of local washable mask manufacturers, are also used in industry, ventilation and appliances.
And now the filters will be used to go into space, chief executive Marc Michel said.
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'’We’ve been working on it for a number of years but the first product went off to the contractor two weeks ago,’' he said.
The filters will be used in the emergency fire protection equipment that crew will wear inside Nasa’s Orion capsule.
Commercially, the deal was not very significant but it was ‘’massive validation’’ for Lanaco's science, Michel said.
Wool is particularly good at catching small harmful particles, and it is moisture absorbent and flame resistant, qualities Nasa wanted.
Lanaco was founded to help lift the value of wool, and over the last decade, it has been genetically breeding its wool for ‘’bulk filtration media’’ which it supplies to clients like 3M.
It was also supplying material to Chinese mask makers but the Australian bushfires and Covid-19 related supply chain disruptions in March prompted the company to start making its own face masks.
As the lockdown approached, there was also an upsurge in interest from Kiwi companies wanting to make washable masks, so Lanaco shared with them a mask design from Hong Kong and produced the filters for it.
‘’We probably supplied 400,000 filters since March, and it means we’ve preserved 400,000 medical masks for frontline health workers. And it created employment and some other positive spin-offs,’’ Michel said.