Redesigning the materials of the future – for defence and aerospace

The Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) links world-class materials science research with industry to bring innovative ideas into the commercial world. 

Why partner with Deakin University’s IFM?

  • We’re in the top 1% of universities for global research impact.
  • You’ll gain access to specialised research equipment and industrial-scale infrastructure that drives commercial outcomes.
  • We are Australia’s number one university for equity held in start-up and spinout companies (SCOPR).
  • We are a national leader in research commercialisation and collaboration, with a strong intellectual property (IP) pipeline and an enviable track record in successful industry engagement for positive impact.

How we work

Using a collaborative framework, IFM works with industry at any stage of the research and development process.

Initial research: IFM can explore an idea, improve products and processes, or solve a problem.

Testing and characterisation: IFM’s world-class analysis and characterisation facilities allow our groups to understand products better.

Optimisation and refinement: IFM can provide unique development opportunities including new testing methods to determine the best optimisation for a product.

Scale-up translation: IFM can prepare your research idea for commercialisation through  its custom-built pilot-scale facilities – Carbon Nexus, the Deakin University Battery Research and Innovation Hub, and the Future Fibres facility.  IFM can produce larger scale samples for testing or demonstration.

Read on to learn more about some of our research projects.

Case studies

  • High-performance light-weight titanium armour plate

    A research partnership between Callidus Welding Solutions and IFM researchers has yielded a novel process to produce a hard and tough surface modification for titanium.

    The developed process is conducted on standard equipment using inexpensive materials. Through alloy design the structure of the surface modification is composed of hard phases embedded in a tough matrix. The process modifies the surface of titanium without adding significant mass, and the depth of the hardened surface modified region can be controlled and varied from 0.5-5mm.


    • Defence – Light-weight armour

    Properties and special features:

    • The surface modification significantly improved the ballistic limit of titanium from 450 m/s to 600 m/s under threat of a AMP2 0.3Cal hardened steel core armour piercing bullet.
    • The ballistic performance approaches that of rolled homogenous steel plate armour, therefore offering the potential for a ~20% weight reduction.
    • Further, the surface modification is “sight specific” meaning it can be efficiently applied in discrete regions where threat protection is required.

    Industry partners: 

    • Callidus Welding Solutions

    Contact: Dr Ramesh Varma

  • Deep drawing technology for combat helmets

    Together with DMTC, IFM researchers have developed deep drawing technology with no splices (no cuts) to construct combat helmets that are lighter, stronger, better performing and cheaper to produce than previous designs.

    Previously, it seemed impossible to shape and bend ballistic fabrics without wrinkling the material. However, IFM researchers developed a unique process – Double Diaphragm Deep Drawing (D4) – which curves and hardens the Kevlar-style ballistic fibres into the correct shape. Researchers designed a special plant that uses thermal (heat) forming to shear the fibres in ultra-high molecular weight ballistic fabric – and managed to achieve perfectly shaped shells that are 20 to 30 per cent lighter than current helmets.

    The helmets passed the US Helmet standard and demonstrated its potential for other composite forming applications.


    • Defence
    • Motorsports

    Properties and special features:

    • Deep drawing technology with no splices (no cuts).
    • Passes US Helmet standard.
    • Made from UHMWPE (Ultra High Molecular Weight PolyEthylene)

    Industry partner:

    • DMTC


    Professor Minoo Naebe

  • Powerful, safer and lighter lithium-metal pouch battery cell for drones and eVTOL

    IFM researchers at the Battery Research and Innovation Hub, have uncovered a new type of lithium-metal pouch battery cell for drones and Electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing vehicles (eVTOL) that is powerful, safer, lighter and more tolerant to high temperatures.

    The safe, high-energy density Lithium-metal battery technology was developed by IFM’s Electromaterials group.

    Its key technology allows the use of reactive lithium metal as the anode in the designed ionic liquid (salt-based) electrolyte.

    To achieve its higher energy density, the technology uses Lithium metal in place of the graphite anode in Li-ion pouch cells, which were produced using the pouch cell prototype lines at Deakin University’s Battery Research and Innovation Hub.


    • Drones
    • eVTOL

    Properties and special features:

    • High energy density, > 350 Wh/kg
    • Light weight
    • Safe
    • Operates well at higher temperatures up to 70℃

    Industry partners:

    • Calix
    • Boron Molecular
    • Sensorplex


    Dr Timothy Khoo –

    Associate Professor Robert Kerr –

    Mojtaba Eftekharnia –

  • Novel aluminium welding wire for efficient 3D printing

    IFM partnered with the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC) and ASX-listed metal additive manufacturing company AML3D to research and develop the commercialisation of a novel welding high-strength aluminium wire feedstock for welding and 3D printing applications.

    In 2021, AML3D needed a high-strength aluminium welding wire to use in 3D printing that required minimal or no heat treatment post-manufacture. Previously, the aluminium alloys the company used required up to 24 hours of heat treatment to reach optimum strength. The cost-effective, high-strength aluminium alloy wire that IFM developed only requires 30 minutes of heat treatment once printed.  


    • Aerospace
    • Marine

    Properties and special features:

    • High-strength
    • Cost-effective
    • Efficient – only require 30 minutes of treatment to reach optimum strength

    Industry partners

    • AML3D


    Aluminium Research Group

    Dr Thomas Dorin

  • Copper coated face masks that inactivate COVID-19

    Wearing a face mask has proven to be one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of COVID-19, and two Institute for Frontier Materials industry partners have taken the protection method one step further – creating and manufacturing a textile for medical-grade face masks that can inactivate the SARS-COV-2 virus within minutes.

    Researchers from IFM’s ARC Research Hub for Future Fibres supported the research, development, production and technical assessment of an antiviral textile treatment invented by Xefco, an Australian textile technology company, with face masks incorporating the technology manufactured by HeiQ Materials AG, a Swiss antimicrobial textile manufacturer.

    The face mask features a groundbreaking Xefco technology called MetalliX™, the first-ever thin-film antiviral copper treatment for textiles. The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute) conducted independent studies of the technology, which revealed that materials treated with MetalliX™ can inactivate Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in as little as five minutes.


    • Personal protective equipment

    Properties and special features:

    • Deactivates SARS-CoV-2
    • Copper-coated non-woven textile

    Industry partners:

    • Xefco
    • HeiQ


    Associate Professor Alessandra Sutti

Partner with us

Join more than 250 partners across the globe who have partnered with the Institute for Frontier Materials to bring innovative ideas into the real world.