Australia can now produce carbon fibre from scratch and at scale, as CSIRO and Deakin University cooperate under a new Strategic Relationship Agreement (SRA) to launch a wet spinning line for carbon fibre at Waurn Ponds, just outside Geelong.
Carbon fibre is characterised by high rigidity, tensile strength and chemical resistance. Thanks to these properties, this strong and rigid but light-weight material is already playing a major role in advanced manufacturing, being widely used in aerospace, civil engineering, the military, in automotive applications, and also in sports equipment.
Carbon fibre production is a tightly held secret, with the few manufacturers keeping their recipes under wraps. CSIRO and Deakin University thus had to develop their own recipes.
The partners used patented CSIRO technology to create what could be the next generation of carbon fibre that is stronger and of a higher quality. For the most part, the carbon fibre manufacturing facility will be used to enable research across the whole carbon fibre value chain, from molecules to polymers to fibre, and finally to finished composite parts. The two organisations hope their facility, and the resulting breakthroughs, will disrupt the entire carbon fibre manufacturing industry.
The carbon fibre facility is just the start to CSIRO and Deakin's new Strategic Relationship Agreement, which will see the organisations partnering together to focus research on materials science, energy technology, and the Australian Centre for Infrastructure Durability (ACID).
The wet spinning line machinery takes a sticky mix of precursor chemicals and turns it into five hundred individual strands of fibre, each thinner than a human hair.
They're then wound onto a spool to create a tape and taken next door to the massive carbonisation ovens to create the finished carbon fibre.
According to CSIRO and Deakin University, the wet spinning line was custom built for the facility by an Italian company, with input from the researchers. Described as "the Ferrari of wet spinning lines", the manufacturing company liked the design so much that it made another for its own factory.