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Australia’s carbon fibre industry growth strategy has been given a boost, thanks to a new partnership between Deakin University and one of the world’s leading science and technology companies, DowAksa.

This partnership includes new commitments at the University’s globally unique carbon fibre research centre, Carbon Nexus, to advance worldwide market adoption of carbon fibre composites.

The partnership will also help to promote Australian expertise in materials and manufacturing technologies to industrial composite parts makers and end users, such as automotive manufacturers in North America, Europe and other key export markets.

DowAksa is a joint venture between Aksa, the world’s leading provider of acrylic fibre, and The Dow Chemical Company. The new agreement will provide for collaborative research and development projects with Carbon Nexus, as well as professional development and exchange opportunities that aim to advance materials and manufacturing process technologies.

Deakin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander announced the partnership at the third biennial Carbon Fibre Future Directions Conference, hosted by Carbon Nexus.

“Carbon Nexus, which we opened just on nine months ago, was strategically positioned by Deakin University as the world’s leading carbon fibre research centre, directly tied to research and ready to work with industry on projects that will help drive the jobs of the future,” Professor den Hollander said.

“What we are announcing here today is a key step in the evolution of that strategy and demonstrates the critical role universities play in supporting local economies to reinvigorate and develop new economic bases.”

Professor den Hollander said the partnership between Deakin and DowAksa would initially include collaborative carbon fibre research projects focused on catalysing local demand for DowAksa carbon fibre, with eventual opportunities for adoption by industries globally.

“The Carbon Nexus pilot line will be optimised for the output of DowAksa carbon fibre samples to support the research projects,” she said.

“DowAksa and Deakin University are also expecting PhD student engagements and staff exchange and training programs as a result of the partnership agreement.

“Carbon fibre is one of the great new value-adding opportunities for Geelong manufacturing, and building a new industry takes commitment, an unwavering focus on innovation and strong partnerships between academia and industry – and that is what goes to the heart of Carbon Nexus.”

Carbon Nexus Director Derek Buckmaster said the DowAksa partnership was a key part of the growth plan for the research facility.

“We are already working in partnership with the world’s first commercial maker of single-piece carbon fibre auto wheels, Carbon Revolution, which is based at our Waurn Ponds campus alongside Carbon Nexus, and recently expanded its operations,” Mr Buckmaster said.

“We have recently welcomed Torquay-based design engineering firm 36T to work on an advanced sports engineering project in partnership with the School of Engineering.

“Australian carbon fibre parts manufacturer Quickstep is also setting up a dedicated automotive division at our Waurn Ponds campus to design and develop automotive manufacturing cells and enable the production of customer prototypes and initial production quantities.”

DowAksa is a charter member of the US advanced composites consortium that was awarded a contract last month by President Barack Obama to establish a national advanced composites manufacturing institute.

Subject to final negotiations between this consortium and the US Department of Energy, the new institute being formed, called the Institute for Advanced Composites Materials Innovation (IACMI), will bring more than $250 million USD in combined federal, state, corporate and academic support to accelerate the development of an advanced composites industry in the US.

Deakin University, already a member of the Oak Ridge Carbon Fibre Composites Consortium based in Tennessee, was among one of almost 200 organisations expressing formal support for the IACMI proposal.

Once the new Institute begins operations, it could provide Deakin with an extended platform for collaborative engagement and networking with business and academic leaders in the American market.

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Carbon Nexus is a purpose-built research facility designed to accommodate the diverse needs of international manufacturing organisations that require the cost-effective resolution of carbon fibre-related projects.

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