Deakin taking off as a carbon fibre leader

17 January 2011

University's and Geelong region's growing reputation as a global hub for research into carbon composite materials to be reinforced as the world's experts descend on the city for the ground-breaking Carbon Fibre - Future Directions Conference.

Deakin's growing reputation as a global hub for research into carbon composite materials will be reinforced in February when the world’s experts descend on Geelong for the ground-breaking Carbon Fibre – Future Directions Conference.

“We’re bringing a veritable who’s who to speak at the conference,” said Deakin’s Associate Professor Bronwyn Fox.

“It is very exciting for everyone involved in the industry, from researchers to suppliers, to end users.

“And as a Geelong local, it is very exciting from our region’s point of view as well. This conference will well and truly put us on the map as the place for carbon fibre research not just in Australia, but around the world.

“It will also help bring carbon fibre manufacturing into the region, creating high tech jobs.

“It’s another example of how cutting edge research being undertaken in and around Geelong is helping revitalise the region.”

The guest speakers include:

  • Dave Warren, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, USA ,
  • Jeff Wiggins, University of Southern Mississippi, USA,
  • Steve Christensen - Technical Fellow, Boeing, USA, 
  • Wen-Fang Hwang, Spirit Aerosystems, USA,
  • Slade Gardener, Lockheed Martin,
  • Chris Wilkinson, The Manufacturing Institute, UK, 
  • Professor  Andrew Walker, University of Manchester, UK,
  • Professor  Frank Jones, University of Sheffield, UK.

There are a number of drivers behind the timing of the conference.

It will coincide with the International Airshow at Geelong's Avalon Airport– carbon composites being the material of choice for the aviation industry as it strives to make jetliners more lightweight, fuel efficient and environmentally friendly.

The conference follows a successful trip to the USA by Associate Professor Fox and a number of colleagues last year shortly after the announcement that Geelong would be home to the Australian Carbon Fibre Research Facility (ACFRF), the only one of its type in the world.

“At the moment there are some scientists doing lab-scale experiments in carbon fibres and there are others in industry involved production,” Associate Professor Fox said.

“They can’t utilise those carbon fibre lines for research because it means a loss of production and the lab scale experiments are unable to replicate the tension on the fibre in production.

“We have found a niche which is a pilot scale for making carbon fibre where we can do some world-class research.

“This gives us the ability to look at new ways of making carbon fibres as well as developing the next generation of carbon fibres.”

The facility is a partnership between Deakin University, the CSIRO and the Geelong-based Victorian Centre for Advanced Materials Manufacturing (VCAMM).

“There has been a lot of interest in the work we have been doing in carbon fibres in Geelong over the past 10 years,” Associate Professor Fox said.

“Since the announcement of the new research facility, and the visit to the USA with Brad Dunstan from VCAMM and our DVC Research at Deakin, Professor Lee Astheimer, that interest has just grown exponentially.

“People around the world are keen to come here to see what we have, and to be part of our future research into carbon fibres.”

Carbon fibre composites are now viewed very much as the materials for the 21st, even the 22nd Century.

“Although they were developed in the 1960s and 1970s they are really only now coming into their own,” Associate Professor Fox said.

“They have huge applications in the aerospace industry, in fact the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is 50 per cent composite materials by weight and the new Airbus A350 XWB will be 53 per cent composite by weight.

“These materials play an enormous role in making aircraft more lightweight so that they are more fuel efficient and produce less environmental emissions.

“In addition to that, carbon fibre composites have a huge impact on the way we look at alternative energy, particularly blades for wind turbines.

“They also have the ability to reduce the weight of motor vehicles, for example, in the USA, Tesla use carbon fibre composites as the material of choice for their cutting edge electric vehicles.”

The ACFRF is one integral part of Deakin and Geelong’s push to be a world leader in wide range of future fibres.

“The facility is part of AFFRIC, the Australian Future Fibres Research and Innovation Centre,” Associate Professor Fox said.

“This new centre is led by Professor Xungai Wang and it will co-locate some of the best researchers from Deakin University and CSIRO with world class facilities.”

The Carbon Fibre – Future Directions conference will be held on the Geelong Waterfront in late February and early March.

Local Geelong manufacturers can still register for the event, but vacancies are limited.

Deakin researchers Claudia Garschke (left) and Dr Mandy Herring rolling out the new materials for the 21st and 22nd centuries! Deakin researchers Claudia Garschke (left) and Dr Mandy Herring rolling out the new materials for the 21st and 22nd centuries!

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