IFM’s Professor Luke Henderson is one of only 25 researchers from across Australia to be awarded a Mid-Career Industry Fellowship – a new scheme from the Australian Research Council.
The Industry Fellowship Program supports academic researchers in establishing careers in industry, and industry-based researchers in universities. It hopes to drive collaboration, translation, and commercialisation outcomes.
Prof. Henderson will receive $1,052,296 in ARC funding and $1.4 million from Deakin University and industry over four years to develop a recyclable carbon fibre composite capability for Australia. He will work with industry partners, Gen 2 Carbon, a carbon fibre recovery and recycled nonwoven technologies company, and Solvay, a polymer and carbon fibre manufacturing company, on the project which will use innovative surface modification techniques on reclaimed and virgin carbon fibres to improve recyclability.
‘The prediction is that by about 2030, there won’t be enough carbon fibre produced globally to meet demand,’ Prof. Henderson says.
‘Recycling existing carbon fibre products, such as waste sitting in old airplanes, is the only feasible way to access this critical raw material.’
He says only about 2% of the thousands of tonnes of carbon fibre produced each year is recycled – in addition about 95% of the composites made today are made using thermoset polymers – which are not suitable for the mass production of parts to support the renewable energy, mining and defence sectors.
According to Prof. Henderson this provides a significant opportunity for the growth of Australia’s burgeoning carbon fibre recycling and remanufacturing industry.
A key part of his project will specifically focus on strengthening Australia’s sovereign capability for composites manufacturing.
‘The interesting thing about Australia is the composite sector is it is tiny but that’s a good thing,’ Prof. Henderson.
‘It’s a clean slate and allows us to establish ourselves as a leader in carbon fibre recycling and remanufacturing.’
‘At the end of the fellowship, I hope we can demonstrate a range of new value-added or high value applications for recycled carbon fibre.’
‘There is a perception that recycled carbon fibre is inferior – so what I am proposing is how can we get rid of that perception? Or, if it is inferior how can we use it for non-traditional applications? For example, the research we are currently doing on PFAs removal with reclaimed and milled carbon fibre.’
The four-year fellowship will also allow Prof. Henderson to build a team that includes two PhD students and a post-doctoral research fellow.
To learn more about the project or to connect with Prof. Luke Henderson, click here.