Congratulations Melissa Basil-Jones on your PhD!

Melissa has recently been awarded her doctorate for the thesis, ‘Fibrillar Collagen Structure in Ovine Leather and Related Materials and its Relationship to Strength’. With this publication, LASRA has reached a major milestone in its 7 year MBIE co-funded Consortium project identifying the fundamental aspects of the collagen network which contribute to the intrinsic strength of leather. The outcome could be worth an extra $125 million in export returns to our economy.

 

Until now, an understanding of the structure of these collagen fibrils and how they are affected by processing during the leather making process has remained largely elusive.

 

By application of the SAXS beamline on the Australasian Synchrotron a level of detail previously unknown has been revealed. The versatility of this $206 million instrument has allowed the structure of leathers processed by different methods to be analysed whilst simultaneously stretching them in a purpose built rig. Melissa found that sheep leather was weak because the collagen fibrils were poorly aligned compared to the stronger bovine leather.

 

This work is providing a new understanding of the bridge between the chemical properties of collagen fibrils and their structural make-up, such that the effect of tanning and other chemical processes can better be understood at the molecular level.

 

As Melissa finishes her pioneering studies in this field the work continues with the more practical effects of various tanning systems being investigated by Ms Katie Sizeland under the guidance of Professor Havercamp of Massey University and Dr Edmonds of LASRA.

 

Photo courtesy of The New Zealand Herald