Editorial Feature

Nanotechnology in the Australian Advanced Manufacturing Industry

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Australia’s largest export earner is the manufacturing sector. The advanced manufacturing sector that contributes to 45% of the earnings, is the fastest growing group of export earners, with a yearly average growth rate of more than 10% in the last decade. In 2001, advanced manufacturing accounted for $21.1 billion (18.3%) of all Australian exports.

Australian manufacturers are pioneers in the world in a number of advanced manufacturing fields. It is worth mentioning that this includes advanced nanomaterial capabilities.

Opportunities for Nanotechnology

Opportunities for the production and application of nanotechnologies in the advanced manufacturing sector lie in the following:

  • Carbon nanotubes
  • Nanocoatings
  • Nanoparticles/nanopowders

Nanotechnology Victoria—Carbon Nanotubes Facility

Nanotechnology Victoria is a top consortium with two other partners (Monash University and a local industrial company). It is involved in building a carbon nanotubes facility that caters to the requirements of Australian scientists, R&D organizations, and industries. This facility is located on the Monash University Clayton campus.

The carbon nanotubes facility can produce both multi-wall nanotubes (MWNT) and single-wall nanotubes (SWNT) using a chemical vapor deposition process. The facility has equipment for purifying and functionalizing of nanotubes.

The facility is mainly dedicated to R&D, where the synthesized nanotubes are incorporated into a variety of other host materials and then analyzed to gain insights into the behavior of the composite materials. The focus is on the benefits of carbon nanotubes in imparting preferred properties (for example, electrical, mechanical, or chemical properties).

Other Advanced Manufacturing Participants

Nanoparticles/Nanopowders Manufacturing

Australia and Victoria have a highly active and advanced industry based on the manufacture of small particles—at micro- and nanoscale—and addition of these in industrial and consumer products. Main companies include:

  • Micronisers Pty Ltd (Vic)—Based in Dandenong, Micronisers has been active for about 10 years, manufacturing zinc oxide and other metal oxide powders at nanoscale. Micronisers has carried out widespread development with CSIRO, and makes best use of the optical properties of ZnO in fade-resistant coatings and sunscreens.
  • Australian Micropowders (Vic)—Based in Dandenong, Australian Micropowders creates nano- and micro-sized materials for use in the food sector.
  • Advanced NanoTechnology (WA)—Situated in Perth, ANT has a significant partnership with Samsung Corning. ANT exploits optical properties of nano-powders of metal oxides in paint additives and sunscreens.
  • The Very Small Particle Company (Qld)—Based in Brisbane,  USPC supplies advanced multi-metal oxides at nanoscale to export markets, exploiting the catalytic properties of these materials.

Nanocoating Industries

University researchers and industries across Australia have created nanocoating technologies that can be used in a wide range of applications.

  • Advanced NanoTechnology’s NanoZ product is a coating composed of ZnO nanopowders that offer excellent UV protection. The powders also offer anti-fungal properties to plastic and wood surfaces.
  • In partnership with Olex, the Australian Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) for Polymers based in Victoria, has created a world-class polymer composite technology that safeguards electrical cables from fire and heat. The technology includes an exclusive polymer that turns into ceramic upon exposure to fire or heat. Olex uses this technology to coat the plastic insulation around electric wires.
  • Bottle Magic Australia Pty Ltd manufactures glass bottle and packaging coatings that improve the shelf life of products by safeguarding against UV.

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