Australia. It’s famous for its boom-and-bust mining economy, the laid-back lifestyle of its residents and its frankly terrifying native wildlife.
But these clichés disguise the fact that this massive country is something of a hotbed for the development of advanced materials—especially carbon fibre.
For example, a mainly residential suburb of the city of Geelong in Victoria, Waurn Ponds, has featured several times on this site in recent weeks.
It plays host to Deakin University’s Carbon Nexus, a AU$34-million carbon fibre research facility that celebrated its one-year anniversary on 16 July.
In this time, the facility has produced 75 different batches of carbon fibre – equating to approximately five tonnes or 2250 bobbins of the material – for research trials, and has processed 18 different types of precursor, including polyacrylonitrile (PAN), cellulose, lignin and reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT)-polymerized varieties.
It is working on a wide array of projects and has formed some significant partnerships.
Most recently, it has been awarded a $4.7 million grant from the Australian Research Council (ARC) for the Future Fibres Industrial Transformation Research Hub (ITRH) to develop advanced carbon fibres and nanofibres.
Also based in Waurn Ponds is Carbon Revolution, which has been working with car giant Ford to develop the first carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) wheels to be fitted as standard on a mass-produced vehicle.
Further still, Quickstep’s automotive division is located there. This division will be manufacturing up to 1000 CFRP engine parts for a leading global carmaker, and the company is currently developing a method for the high-volume production of CFRP components.
So while we are looking to companies in North America, Europe and Asia to solve the problems of mass producing CFRP for automotive applications, the solutions might just be found Down Under.