HDR Scholarship - Fire Resistant Biological Materials

Applications now open. A PhD scholarship is available to initiate and conduct research on the topic 'Fire Resistant Biological Materials'.

Project Supervisor

Additional Supervision Team


Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus

Research topic

Some biological materials have extraordinary fire resistant properties. It has been reported that the common cypress trees can survive forest fires and the cypress tree leaves take seven times as long to ignite as other kinds of trees (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/09/03/how-a-devastating-forest-fire-revealed-a-tree-as-close-to-fireproof-as-a-tree-can-get/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.440c68e32034).

The underlining reason for this intriguing property of cypress tree leaves at the material structural level is not yet well understood. Similar to a composite material, the trees contain cellulose fibrils imbedded in a biological resin. Understanding how such a biological composite structure can impart excellent fire resistance will have significant practical implications for the design of functional materials and products such as fire fighters uniforms.

Existing fire fighters uniforms contain a polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) layer, which poses a significant challenge in the recycling of such uniforms after use. This issue has also been highlighted in a recent discussion with the Workwear Group in Port Melbourne. An alternative material solution is warranted, and the answer may lie in the naturally fire resistant materials such as the common cypress trees.

Project aim

The proposed research will seek to understand the mechanism of fire resistance properties of biological composite materials such as cypress trees. This project is multidisciplinary in nature, and will be guided by a supervisory team with expertise in fibre materials (Wang), resin (Varley) and thermal properties (Liu).

The novelty and innovation of this work include isolation of the fibre/fibril and the resin components of the cypress tree and examination of their respective thermal behaviour using both TGA and Laser Flash instruments in IFM.

This work is likely to lead to both high impact publications and future grants opportunities.

Important dates

Applications will remain open until a candidate has been appointed


This scholarship is available over 3 years.

  • Stipend of $28,092 per annum tax exempt (2020 rate)
  • Relocation allowance of $500-1500 (for single to family) for students moving from interstate or overseas
  • International students only: Tuition fee and overseas health coverage for the duration of 4 years

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible you must:

  • be either a domestic or international candidate
  • meet Deakin's PhD entry requirements
  • be enrolling full time and hold an honours degree (first class) or an equivalent standard master's degree with a substantial research component.
  • Applicants should have a major in chemistry, chemical engineering or an equivalent.

Please refer to the research degree entry pathways page for further information.

How to apply

Please apply using the expression of interest form


Contact us

For more information about this scholarship, please contact Dr Dan Liu

Dr Dan Liu
Research Fellow 
Institute for Frontier Materials
Email Dan Liu
+61 3 522 72626