Dr Tom Rainey and Dr Thuy Chu Van have developed the new material. Picture: QUT
Dr Tom Rainey and Dr Thuy Chu Van have developed the new material. Picture: QUT

Study explores turning sugar by-products into PPE

THERE will be huge opportunities for Mackay's sugar industry if researchers can successfully develop antiviral nanofibres from sugarcane waste.

The State Government has partnered with Queensland University of Technology scientists on nanoparticle-removing material being developed for biodegradable face masks.

The cellulose nanofiber component is made from waste plant material such as sugarcane bagasse and other agricultural waste products.

QUT process engineer Thomas Rainey said his research team had developed and tested a highly breathable nanocellulose material that could remove particles the size of viruses.

From sugarcane bagasse to a new nano-particle removing material. Picture: QUT
From sugarcane bagasse to a new nano-particle removing material. Picture: QUT

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"By breathability we mean the pressure or effort the wearer has to use to breathe through the mask," Dr Rainey said.

"The higher the breathability the greater the comfort and reduction in fatigue.

"This is an important factor for people who have to wear masks for long periods or those with existing respiratory conditions.

"Our tests showed the new material was more breathable than commercial face masks, including surgical masks."

Mackay MP Julieanne Gilbert at Racecourse Mill. Picture: supplied
Mackay MP Julieanne Gilbert at Racecourse Mill. Picture: supplied

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Mackay MP Julieanne Gilbert said the antiviral nanofibres from sugarcane waste could also be used to provide greater protection to the medical gowns and personal protective equipment used by health workers.

"If it succeeds, the opportunities here are significant," Mrs Gilbert said.

"And as a major hub of both sugarcane production and manufacturing, we're perfectly placed to take advantage of it."


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