Currently only a handful of companies around the world are able to manufacture carbon-fibre, each with their own closely-guarded secret recipe. But none have, as yet, cracked the method to producing ultra-lightweight, ultra-strong composite in significant quantities.
But now, CSIRO and Deakin University have, as they put it, “cracked the code” to mass-production through the use of a patented wet spinning line which can produce carbon-fibre that is both stronger and of a higher quality than previously produced.
Unveiled yesterday at Waurn Ponds just outside Geelong in Victoria, the wet spinning line (pictured above) takes a sticky mix of precursor chemicals and spins it into 500 individual fibre strands, each thinner than a human hair.
These strands are then wound onto a spool to create a tape which are then taken to carbonisation ovens to bake and create carbon-fibre.
The CSIRO has patented the technology which has the potential to be a game-changer for the automotive industry. With current technology cost-prohibitive for wider use, carbon-fibre is usually found only on high-end luxury cars or supercars.
With the potential to now mass-produce the composite material, carbon-fibre is set to be cheaper than ever before, possibly leading to application in mass-produced vehicles. Lighter body panels would make cars even more fuel efficient, no bad thing in this day and age of climate change.
The Director of CSIRO Future Industries, Dr Anita Hill, said the development was an important discovery that has the potential to disrupt the status quo in the carbon-fibre industry.
“This facility means Australia can carry out research across the whole carbon fibre value chain: from molecules, to polymers, to fibre, to finished composite parts,” said Dr Hill.
“Together with Deakin, we’ve created something that could disrupt the entire carbon-fibre manufacturing industry.”
Deakin University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jane den Hollander AO highlighted the collaboration would benefit, not just Australia through, but the rest of the world.
“Our two organisations share a long-standing and distinguished bond, one that our new Strategic Relationship Agreement (SRA) deepens even further,” said Professor den Hollander said.
“Together, we’re conducting industry focussed research with a profound and lasting impact, from the communities we serve, through to the world.”
Assistant Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science the Honourable Craig Laundy MP officially launched the Waurn Ponds facility yesterday, stating; “This is a great example of how collaboration in the Australian research sector can accelerate research, lead innovation and provide new job opportunities.
“Geelong already has a global reputation for industrial innovation. Initiatives such as this enhance that standing.”