Industry needs carbon fibre research

The Geelong Manufacturing Council has made representations to Government and was vocal in the media in October over CSIRO’s recent decision to close its carbon fibre research at Waurn Ponds.

We called on CSIRO to reverse its decision and pivot its carbon fibre research to reduce the embedded energy and improve the sustainability credentials of this highly value material. Industry has a compelling interest in carbon fibre improvements.

Informed community and industry leaders have been calling for research into making carbon fibre more sustainable: they want workable renewable raw materials for the making of carbon fibre; they want to lower the embedded energy of this highly valued lightweight material; they want methods for recycling and, of course, they want to reduce costs.

Deakin University’s Carbon Nexus continues to take a global leadership role in researching renewable and cost-effective carbon fibre – a fortunate thing – because Australia’s premier science body has been waylaid again from a set task.

As we use this current radical upheaval in economic activity to decide the future we want – whether it is to secure sources of supply in times of future global disruption or to radically reduce global greenhouse emissions – we must hold our Governments and their agencies and representatives to account.

Carbon fibre is four times as strong as steel and about one third of its weight. Carbon fibre components will help enable a low emissions future by extending the range of electric vehicles, by strengthening wind turbine blades and enabling the storage of hydrogen at high pressures.  This is a high value material being made into even higher value products, precisely the kinds of value-added goods Australia must get behind for our future prosperity.

We are not able to produce everything in Australia that we need. This is known as a sovereign capability gap.  And while we should be wary of cries of national security as a cover for increasing protection – lower trade volumes will hamper the global recovery and make us poorer – our national research infrastructure should be addressing the challenges that help solve real-world industry problems – and help close that sovereign industrial gap.

Read GMC CEO’s opinion article in the Geelong Advertiser on 1 October