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Deakin University’s emerging role as a leader in carbon fibre composites research and development was a highlight of the JEC Composites Show and Conference in Paris last month.
Deakin showcased the capabilities of the Carbon Nexus research facility that is due to open on the Waurn Ponds Campus later this year.
The stand at JEC was part of a series of activities supported by a grant from the Victorian Government Department of Business and Innovation awarded to the Victorian Centre for Advanced Materials Manufacturing (VCAMM) to promote the research at Carbon Nexus.
VCAMM is a partner with Deakin in Carbon Nexus which in turn is supported by both the Federal and Victorian Governments.
“There has been a lot of interest in this facility, which is the only one of its type at a University in the world, since the announcement that it was going to be built,” said Associate Professor Bronwyn Fox, who was part of the Deakin delegation in Paris.
“Now that we are near to the official opening, that interest has been greatly magnified.”
Carbon fibre composites are regarded as the material for the 21st Century and will be prominent in future developments in the aerospace and automobile industries.
Most carbon fibre production plants around the world are in full use just meeting current demand.
So a facility that is dedicated to research, creating new and improved carbon fibre composites, was always going to attract world attention.
“We had people from all over the world visiting our stand and wanting to know more," Associate Professor Fox said.
"I’ve attended JEC a number of times over the last 10 years and I haven’t observed anything like the level of interest we experienced.
“Over the three days at JEC, we would have had hundreds of visitors.
“It was a great showcase for Carbon Nexus in particular as well as giving us an opportunity to discuss other areas of research at Deakin with the key players in the automotive and aerospace industries.
“As well as at the Avalon International Airshow and the Formula One Grand Prix where we’ve also had stands, we got a lot of comments from the public saying ‘wow we didn’t know Deakin did this sort of research’.
“Just starting to get the message out both here in Australia and overseas has been a huge effort, but already the benefits are flowing through with a number of new industry projects currently under development.”
The Carbon Nexus research team is made up some of Deakin’s best researchers, including the internationally regarded Professor Xungai Wang.
Other members include Associate Professor Fox, Associate Professor Tiffany Walsh, Dr Claudia Creighton, Dr Abdullah Kafi, Dr Mandy de Souza, Dr Luke Henderson, Dr Kevin Magniez and Dr Minoo Naebe.
“This is a highly talented group,” Associate Professor Fox said.
“Tiff Walsh joined us at Deakin University after a decorated career in England where she worked at Oxford and the University of Warwick.
“Dr Naebe has just won an award for her research into making helmets for soldiers more bullet proof.”
In addition to the stand at JEC, 'Carbon Fibre - Future Directions 2013’ was held in February and attracted leading experts from industry and academia in this field to Geelong.
The conference featured 10 high calibre international keynote speakers from Boeing, Dow Chemicals, Multimatic, Lux Research, Despatch Industries and included presentations from Deakin University, international and Australian academic collaborators and local industries.
Associate Professor Fox said the Carbon Nexus facility would help attract new industries to Victoria, particularly the Geelong region.
“There is already tangible evidence of this with Carbon Revolution” she said.
“What essentially began as a student project is now in the process of employing more and more people in Geelong, including five graduates from my team.
“We believe there will be more start-ups like this as more companies will want to have their businesses close to the research facilities.
“Internationally, already we’re well and truly on the radar with global giants like Boeing and Eurocopter.
“We have been talking with these people for a long time, developing the relationships.
“Now that we are on the cusp of opening the new Carbon Nexus facility, I believe those relationships will grow very quickly into partnerships.
“Geelong has long been on the world map for fibres because of the wool industry that was dominant here for so long.
"It’s been a pleasure to work more closely with the outstanding scientists at CSIRO who have recently co-located with us.
“Carbon Nexus will not only maintain that tradition, but take it to a new 21st Century level.”