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Our research themes were developed in response to industry needs and focus on carbon fibre, composite materials and process engineering. The four research themes at Carbon Nexus  are:

  1. Low cost carbon fibre
  2. High performance carbon fibre
  3. Surface treatment and sizing of carbon fibre
  4. Rapid composite cure

Low cost carbon fibre

It is predicted that new precursor technology (polyolefin precursors combined with microwave assisted plasma carbonization) has the potential to halve the cost of carbon fibre at pilot-line scale by 2017. Industrial grade carbon fibre is not suitable for all applications and there is still an urgent need to reduce the cost of PAN derived carbon fibre, both for high performance applications as well as to bridge the gap in the intervening time required for new precursor technologies to be commercialised.

Strategic goals:

  1. Develop new grades of low cost PAN precursor by understanding and modelling the energy efficiency of the process and by increasing throughput.
  2. Explore new bio derived carbon fibre precursors including nano-fibrillated cellulose isolated from Australian spinifex grass with the University of Queensland.
  3. Investigate the use of low-cost, environmentally benign solvents for precursors based on ionic liquids

High performance carbon fibre

The tensile strength of current generation carbon fibre is limited by fibre defects, including voids, impurities and chain ends.  Further fundamental understanding is required to reduce these defects and increase the tensile properties of carbon fibre.  Importantly, the suite of instruments available for micro and nano-scale fibre characterisation at Carbon Nexus and within the Institute for Frontier Materials allows in-depth understanding of the root causes of these defects.

Strategic goals:

  1. Develop highly ordered nanostructured carbon fibre precursors based on well dispersed graphene in partnership with the University of Wollongong.
  2. Molecular design and synthesis of new highly ordered PAN precursors using RAFT polymerisation and controlled co-monomer type and distribution.
  3. Understand the role of high modulus carbon fibre and its influence on microcracking in the polymer matrix.

Surface treatment and sizing of carbon fibre

The role of the coating (or sizing ) on carbon fibre is twofold; it must improve handling and protect the brittle fibre during subsequent textile forming processes as well as acting as a coupling agent to improve the bonding between fibre and matrix.

Current sizing and surface treatments were developed to protect the fibre and are not optimised for improving the fibre matrix adhesion in composites that do not have an epoxy matrix.  The increase in use of thermoplastic and high temperate resin systems demands the development of new tailored fibre surface treatments. Development of these treatment systems is a major research focus for Carbon Nexus.

Strategic goals:

  1. Develop and model new tailorable plasma polymer coatings for carbon fibre and evaluate the effect of these coatings on fibre matrix adhesion.
  2. Explore new organic surface treatments and sizing for carbon fibre.
  3. Investigate the effect of ionic liquid post spinning treatment of PAN precursor for efficient oxidation.

Rapid composite cure

A major focus of Deakin’s composite research is the development of new rapid cure processes for automotive components.  In addition to this, we will continue our quest to improve the understanding of the adhesion between the fibre and matrix in composite materials.  This work will be closely linked with the carbon fibre research on developing new surface treatments for carbon fibre and we are fortunate to have unique access to pristine carbon fibre through Carbon Nexus for this purpose. The ability to develop new carbon fibre grades on site and evaluate their performance in components is globally unique.

Strategic goals:

  1. Develop new systems for rapid cure of composite components through the design of new processing systems to match matrix chemistry cure kinetics.
  2. To extend the novel technologies developed in the defence projects to new applications.
  3. To evaluate the performance of the new fibres developed in the other themes in composite structures and components.

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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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