The carbon fiber composites business is getting a boost in Australia through establishment of Carbon Nexus, a research facility dedicated to R&D on carbon fiber and its composites. The A$34 million facility is part of the larger A$103 million Australian Future Fibres Research Innovation Centre (AFFRIC) located at Deakin University in Waurn Ponds, Victoria.
According to Brad Dunstan, CEO of the Victorian Centre for Advanced Materials Manufacturing (Knoxfield VIC), which is partnering Deakin University in Carbon Nexus, the facility opening in stages from later this year will be an “open access” R&D facility boasting a single tow line and a 20-tonnes/yr carbon fiber line that aims to facilitate world-class innovation in carbon fiber and composite solutions. “Australia currently accounts for just 1% of global carbon fiber composite demand yet there are big opportunities in automotive,” says Dunstan. “But without this facility, the industry would be uniquely positioned to miss out [on growth in the carbon fiber sector].”
Research target areas for Carbon Nexus include functionally graded composites, melding (joining) of composite structures, toughening of composites with electro-spun nanofibers, class A surface finishes for composites, and recycling of carbon fibers. The facility also plans to look at low energy conversion of PAN to carbon fiber and alternative precursors.
Carbon Nexus’ single tow line will be commissioned in Q4 of 2012, the building will become available Q1 of 2013, and the 20-tonnes/yr carbon fiber pilot line will be installed in Q2 of 2013 and commissioned in Q4 of 2013. The single tow line is portable, and can product one to four tows of 1k to >50k, or a single large tow (320k). The 90m-long carbon fiber pilot line will be able to manufacture 12k to 320k tow sizes.
Carbon Nexus is offering a variety of packages to companies for access to the facility, with a EUR100,000 Tier I annual commitment aimed at larger companies being the top-end option and extending the highest level of access. A EUR50,000 package targets medium-sized companies, with associate members who contribute equipment and services also allowed access in lieu of cash. Affiliate status for small companies is offered at EUR5,000 annually.