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A Deakin University partnership with the wool industry is set to solve one of the much-loved natural fibres biggest issues - the itch factor.
In partnership with CSIRO and commercial knitting and weaving companies brought together under the Sheep Co-Operative Research Centre, Dr Maryam Naebe has helped develop the Wool ComfortMeter.
This is a compact, table-top device that can detect the fibres that cause the itch factor in wool.
The Wool ComfortMeterhas two major uses, Dr Naebe says.
“It allows manufacturers of knitwear or woollen garments worn close to the skin to develop fabrics free of prickle or itch,” she said.
“This can be done by changing the specifications of the construction and treatment of the yarn and construction of the fabric.
“The second major use is that for the first time, knitwear manufacturers can measure and guarantee the suitably of a next-to-skin garment.”
The Wool Comfortmeter has already been enthusiastically welcomed in the industry.
One company was impressed so by its effectiveness it wanted to keep the prototype.
This project is yet another example of Deakin’s ability to work in partnership with industry to provide solutions to real world problems, and to take an idea from concept to commercialisation.
The Woolmark Company is the global authority that “undertakes marketing campaigns and research and development within the global textile and fashion industries to drive demand and ensure consumers have a range of quality apparel to buy, wear and treasure”.
Its market research has found that 41 one per cent of people involved in a recent survey believed that wool was itchy.
That response is same result as a survey taken 20 years ago.
So the Wool ComfortMeter emerges as a game-changer for the wool industry.
“It is a very exciting project and it has been a privilege to be able to work with my other colleagues in the developing the Wool ComfortMeter,” Dr Naebe said.
“For me it shows that Deakin’s research, particularly when we work with industry collaborators, can have an immediate impact on the lives of people, and not just in Australia but around the world.
“There will be many international companies interested in buying this Australian invention.
“So as well as helping improve one of our important exports products, we have developed another one.
Dr Naebe comes to Deakin from Isfahan in Iran.
Isfahan’s reputation for producing top quality textiles stretches back into history even further than Geelong’s, which only began in the 19th Century.
In 1598, when it became the capital of the Persian Empire, Isfahan was already a centre for the production of fine woollen rugs and carpets.
Now, as Iran’s third largest city, it remains at the forefront in textiles.
After finishing her Masters of Science degree in Isfahan, Dr Naebe began doing her PhD in Teheran.
But a phone call from her sister Minoo, who was already at Deakin, caused a change of plans.
“I chose to come to Deakin to do my PhD because my sister Minoo was already here and because of the quality of the research,” Dr Naebe said.
“Minoo had found out on the web about Deakin’s growing reputation for working in textiles and successfully applied for a scholarship to do her PhD here.
“She also told me that Geelong was a great place in which to live.
“I applied for a scholarship with Deakin and completed my PhD here in 2009.
“Then I was fortunate enough to become a Research Fellow in fibre science and technology.
“This has allowed me to continue to study the interaction between textiles and the human body and the environment.
“I do this with a view to developing textiles materials that have improved performance and comfort.”
There’s something else Dr Naebe likes about Geelong, the seasons, and in particular winter.
It allows her to wear her favourite jumpers - woollen, of course.