New technology offers promising manufacturing potential for Australia

Monday, 25 February 2019

An innovative low emission technology could see the development of a new manufacturing industry within Australia.

carbon fibre material

The University was awarded $753,468 from the Coal Innovation NSW Fund to investigate the possibility of transforming low emission coal directly into a carbon fibre material.

“Carbon fibre is a high strength, low weight material that is currently used for transport vehicles, such as aircrafts, to reduce weight and emissions,” project lead, Dr Rohan Stanger, said.

“Advanced carbon manufacturing is a new high-value industry for Australia that we believe could revolutionise how we view our coal reserves and the products we produce from them.

“Current carbon fibres are made from petroleum products, which are energy intensive and imported. If we can substitute coal as a feed material, the product is likely to have lower emissions and be much cheaper than current practice.

“We’ll be investigating whether coal can be transformed into a viable commercial product. By using a lower cost material to begin with, in this instance coal, we should be able to manufacture carbon fibres in large volumes at a much lower cost.”

With the fibre reinforced composites industry growing at a rate of 10 per cent per annum and globally worth approximately $20 billion, carbon fibres could have application across a range of industries.

“This new technology could be applied across the automotive manufacturing industry as well as sporting goods, including golf clubs, and potentially buildings at a fraction of the cost,” Dr Stanger said.

“Current carbon fibres are all imported and cost anywhere between $16-50 per kilogram, with around half the costs being feed material. At roughly 25 cents per kilogram, coal is a low-cost feed material and this would be a high value use of our resource. Critically, it would make far better use of our coal’s unique chemical and physical properties without impacting climate change.”

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment awarded $6.5 million to 13 successful projects that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the use of coal in the energy sector.

The project team includes  Dr Rohan Stanger, Emeritus Professor Terry Wall, Associate Professor John Lucas, Laureate Professor Graeme Jameson and Dr Minoo Naebe from Deakin University.

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The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.