New fire retardants to bolster wind farms resilience to bushfires

University of Southern Queensland researchers blown away with Australian Research Centre funding

Australia’s changing climatic conditions and preparation for more extreme weather events are a constant reminder about the need for adaptation and resilience to be part of new infrastructure being built around the country.

To tackle this issue, the Australian Research Centre (ARC) has awarded the University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ) $440,000, through the Linkage Projects scheme, to develop advanced fire retardant composite resins used for manufacturing wind turbine blades and materials capable of withstanding exposure to bushfires.

The scheme is an Australian Government initiative that unites researchers, industry partners and community groups to help advance the country’s skills and knowledge in various sectors.

UniSQ researchers Professor Pingan Song, a chemical engineer, and Professor Xuesen Zeng, a materials engineer, are utilising their fire retardants and functional polymer composites expertise to help place Australia at the forefront of the advanced manufacturing industry.

Professor Song will lead the newly-funded project, which aims to mitigate infrastructure risks and enhance bushfire resilience.

Professor Song and his team aim to develop and commercialise a new class of eco-friendly and cost-effective fire retardants that can improve the fire retardancy of unsaturated polyester resins (UPR) by creating a protective char layer while preserving the UPR’s bulk physical properties.

Professor Song said the project would build on the University’s collaboration with Allnex Resins Australia, which has worked together for the past five years developing advanced composites manufacturing for electrical infrastructures, such as power poles.

“We are 100 per cent confident that we can achieve our aims because we have all the required resources in place,” Professor Song said.

“Moreover, we have already achieved some encouraging preliminary research results, which means we are already on the right track.”

Working alongside industry partners Ningbo MIRUO Electronic Technology and Allnex Composites Australia, Professor Song said the “next generation” technology would capture the attention of the world’s manufacturing sector.

“The ultimate goal is for the technology to be used in many other constructions and infrastructures, including transport and power facilities,” he said.

Others involved in the research team include Dr Zhenhu Cao (Ningbo MIRUO Electronic Technology) and Dean Voice (Allnex Composites Australia).

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