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New bonding technology in the running for Eureka prize

22 September 2021
L-R: Dr Andrew Rider, Dr Jojibabu Panta (UWS) and Dr John Wang. Not pictured: Associate Professor Yixia (Sarah) Zhang
L-R: Dr Andrew Rider, Dr Jojibabu Panta (UWS) and Dr John Wang. Not pictured: Associate Professor Yixia (Sarah) Zhang

A DSTG and Western Sydney University team which has developed a high-performance nanocomposite adhesive that has significant implications for national security is a finalist in the prestigious 2021 Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia.

The “Strong Bond” team, comprising Associate Professor Yixia (Sarah) Zhang and Dr Jojibabu Panta, of Western Sydney University, and DSTG’s Dr Andrew Rider and Dr John Wang, developed the durable adhesive which enables rapid, high strength patch repairs of military and civilian infrastructure. The new material, combining carbon nanoparticles and an epoxy resin, can improve the resilience of structural joints and laminated composites used in a range of defence platforms.

Paste adhesives, owing to their low cost, easy storage and long shelf life, have been widely used, including particularly urgent battle damage repair applications. However, the relatively lower strength of the existing paste adhesives has significantly limited their repair effectiveness and application ranges.

Previously, the incorporation of carbon nanomaterials into epoxy resins has been limited because of the difficulty in achieving uniform dispersion. Nanomaterials will clump if not treated appropriately and even relatively small additions will decrease resin strength.

As a result of this research, the team has solved this problem. The team developed an environmentally-friendly method using an ozone gas treatment process on a low-cost popular epoxy resin, producing the epoxy-based nanocomposite. The new process also allowed the team to overcome problems with elevated temperatures and moisture, with a significant increase in bond and adhesive strength.

As a result of the initial research project, the team was awarded a major Next Generation Technology Fund (NGTF) Small Business Innovation Research for Defence (SBIRD) contract (in collaboration with the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) program) to further develop the nanotechnology for a specialized aerospace resin system. The team is now working with Imperial College London, Metrologi, UNSW, Airbus Australia Pacific and ADF (5th Aviation Regiment).

The successful winner will be announced on Thursday 7 October.