story to find out more.
The U.S. military is testing
ARS' new process for making biopolished wool, which could enable wide-scale
domestic production of wool garments that are washable, shrink-resistant and
non-itchy after treatment with natural enzymes. Click the image for more
information about it.
Future Fashions Made of Silky Smooth Wool?
By Jim Core
May 11, 2005
Forget the "itch factor." A new "biopolishing" process developed by
the Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
makes scratchy wool feel silky and look whiter. Not only does it change the
texture and appearance of wool, it also modifies the surface to make it
Besides comfort and form, the method improves aesthetics, according to
Cardamone, a textile chemist at the ARS
Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pa.
The process results in an increased shine on the fabric's surface from
the removal of projecting fiber yarn ends. This contributes to a smooth feel,
which increases wool's appeal in women's fashions.
In biopolishing, the wool is pre-treated with a stable, activated
peroxide, followed by a treatment with either serine or cysteine protease
The hydrogen peroxide step bleaches the wool at lower temperatures and
in half the time as conventional techniques, which results in reduced
processing costs, according to Cardamone. The bleaching technique also makes it
easier to dye the wool.
Shrinkage in conventional wool occurs during machine washing because
the resulting heat and pressure lock wool's scales in place. The wool is
shrink-proofed by another step that uses enzymes to modify wool's surface by
degrading its proteins with enzymes called proteases, so its scales no longer
get tangled-up. Shrinkage is controlled without loss in strength or elastic
Wool scales are usually resistant to enzyme attack, but in
biopolishing, enzymes "digest" the scales, resulting in a smoother surface.
Biopolishing can be applied to multiple surfaces--everything from
loose fibers to yarn, fabric or completed garments. The
Wool Council, a division of the American Sheep Industry (ASI) Association, provided partial funding
for the research.
The biopolishing process is being tested in woolen mills. There is
already interest from the U.S. military in wool treated with the biopolishing
process, especially for the manufacture of underwear for troops.
about the research in the May 2005 issue of Agricultural Research
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.