Deakin University has paved the way to dramatically cut the cost of carbon fibre manufacturing, joining forces with LeMond Composites in a $US44 million deal to revolutionise its use across the world.
The agreement allows LeMond Composites to license technology developed by Deakin’s world-leading carbon fibre research centre, Carbon Nexus.
The Tennessee-based firm, founded and headed by three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond, will also consider the development of a carbon fibre manufacturing plant in Geelong, which would invest more than $30 million in construction and equipment and take the carbon fibre of the future to the global market.
The specialised carbon fibre production machinery for the plant will be manufactured by Furnace Engineering in Clayton, Victoria.
In 1986, Mr LeMond became the first cyclist to win the Tour de France on a carbon fibre bike. He sells carbon fibre bikes under his own brand around the globe, and last year set up LeMond Composites to realise his vision of affordable carbon fibre cycles for everyday riders.
Mr LeMond said the ability to scale low-cost carbon fibre production had been the biggest hurdle to bring the material to the masses.
“Deakin University’s manufacturing process will make it possible to localise manufacturing and make carbon fibre technology more accessible to a wider range of industries like transportation, renewable energy and infrastructure or any industry that benefits from using lighter, stronger, safer materials,” Mr LeMond said.
Deakin’s Carbon Nexus technology is a game-changer for the future of manufacturing, said the University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander.
“This new technology could revolutionise the advanced manufacturing sector locally, across Australia and around the globe, because it will make carbon fibre more affordable to produce, which will make it more accessible for consumers,” she said.
“Carbon fibre has been in use in aircraft, high-end cars and bikes, among other applications for a long time now, but it remains a niche product that costs a significant amount to produce.”
The award-winning Carbon Nexus centre was established in 2014 as a globally-unique, cutting-edge research facility to conduct basic and industrial-scale research into carbon fibre production methods and composite manufacturing techniques.
The technology was developed by Carbon Nexus PhD Student Maxime Maghe and General Manager Steve Atkiss.
Carbon fibre could ultimately be made at Deakin’s Waurn Ponds Campus in Geelong, where over a decade of government, industry and University investment has created a map for manufacturing of the future.
“The opportunities are clear,” said Professor den Hollander. “The future will be driven by high-value advanced manufacturing.”