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Beyond the Bale : Aug 07 - Sep 07
Dr Sally Hutchinson believes that she and her fellow scientists are barely scratching the surface of wool's potential ... literally. While the senior research scientist and her colleagues at CSIRO Textile and Fibre Technology in Geelong have researched some innovative developments to improve wool's versatility and enhance its natural attributes -- such as whitening treatments and their use in medical textiles -- Dr Hutchinson would like to get to know more about the fibre's surface. "It's the most fascinating fibre: very complex and there is still so much more we don't know about its surface," she says. "There's no other fibre with a surface that acts in the same way, and it holds the key to new surface treatments, such as shrink-proofing and polymer applications. "As they say, the devil's in the detail and I hope that through our research we can establish more of that detail." Although just 32, Dr Hutchinson is already winning accolades around the world for her research. She was recently named winner of the First Personal Award in the Excellence in Wool Science Awards announced at the 76th Congress of the International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO) in Edinburgh. She won the award for her work in characterising and modifying the surface of wool, and for further projects that may extend to the development of super-white wool fabrics and wool bandages and dressings that can detect and display Australian Wool Innovation Limited AWI, GPO Box 4177, Sydney NSW 2001 changes in microbial levels to help monitor and control infection and healing. Created by AWI with the German Wool Research Institute (DWI), the awards aim to encourage work in wool science at universities and research centres around the world. They recognise students and postdoctoral fellows whose scientific research is creative or pioneering and has practical implications. Growing up in Geelong and studying science at Deakin University, where she received a PhD in chemistry, followed by postdoctoral research at the University of Melbourne, it was probably inevitable that Dr Hutchinson would one day find herself in a lab at CSIRO Textile and Fibre Technology. With an interest in medicinal chemistry, she completed a vacation scholarship at CSIRO and found a new interest -- wool science -- which she then went on to study for her PhD. As her peers headed to careers in petroleum and pharmaceuticals, Dr Hutchinson says working with natural fibres has proved to be a fascinating career path. "Chemistry explains a lot of the natural phenomena around us. It is a logical science and fibres are fascinating. "Jobs in this area are declining, but there is so much research to be done.The history of the work here at CSIRO is extraordinary and so many of the developments have become so 'everyday' that people take them for granted.We all strive for that to be the result of our work." To date, Sally Hutchinson's endeavours have been in three areas: studying the surface properties of wool, producing super-white wool-blend fabrics and developing medical textiles. She has developed new techniques for investigating the surface chemistry of wool fibres, particularly the proteolipid layer that gives wool its unique feel and handle. Dr Hutchinson also led a promising study on a new whitening process for wool-polyester fabrics and, when commercially proven, it will allow wool to have greater impact on the corporate wear, hosiery, active sportswear and baby wear markets, traditionally dominated by cotton and synthetics. In a project on the use of wool in wound dressings Dr Hutchinson devised an innovative technique for monitoring the condition of a covered wound.The method detects and displays changes in bacterial populations in the wound cover. The technology may eventually make it to market, as it has been acquired by Smith and Nephew, makers of medical provisions including dressings and bandages. "The use of wool in medical dressings has great potential, particularly with the elderly who know wool, love wool and need to keep warm in winter and cool in summer. Another area I'd like to work on is the use of wool in bone repair." -- KELLIE PENFOLD More information: www.csiro.au PROFILE Dr Sally Hutchinson Senior research scientist, CSIRO Textile and Fibre Technology Under the skin of a fascinating fibre PHOTO: KELLIE PENFOLD
Aug 07 - Sep 07 Supplement
Jun 07 - Jul 07 Supplement