Funding boost for nanomaterial development to help machines last longer

IFM's Associate Professor Weiwei Lei

An IFM-led project to develop protective coatings to improve the performance and lifespan of thermal energy management devices has received funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC).

Deakin University will partner with metal additive manufacturing specialist Conflux Technology on the project, with a $508,098 grant over three years as part of the ARC’s Linkage Projects scheme.

Conflux are experts in 3D printing thermal energy management devices used to keep critical machines cool and operating at optimum temperatures – including in the aerospace, automotive, energy, mining and manufacturing industries.

These devices are typically made using aluminium, but aluminium erodes quickly in harsh environments, which means the life cycle of the equipment can be quite short.

The newly funded research project will develop and test new nanomaterial coatings and advanced plasma coating technology to improve the devices’ performance and ensure they last longer.

The project team brings together three critical areas of expertise:

  1. Nanomaterial and plasma coatings – Associate Professor Weiwei Lei, Deakin’s Institute of Frontier Materials
  2. Corrosion and performance testing – Professor Nick Birbilis, Executive Dean, Deakin’s Faculty of Science, Engineering and the Built Environment
  3. 3D printing – Dr Ian Fordyce, additive manufacturing engineer, Conflux Technology

Over the past two years, Associate Professor Lei has been working with Conflux on a small system to develop the coating for application.

Thanks to the ARC Linkage funding this will be scaled up into a bigger system enabling the research team to coat the large devices produced by Conflux.

The research team will then test the coatings and further refine and improve their design, to achieve the best results in performance and service life.

“Our new nanomaterial coating can help extend service life by providing good erosion and corrosion resistance,” Associate Professor Lei said.

“This means less waste and helps reduce CO2 emissions from factories.

“The new coatings also improve the performance of heat exchange, allowing the devices to work more efficiently.”