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The first of its kind in Australia

Unmatched partnerships are leading world-class research to support sustainability
Wind turbine on wind farm with man on top of turbine

Powering Australia’s future is a key aspiration of the University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ), with ongoing research to help overcome some of the world’s key problems.

Combined with our unique partnerships, UniSQ is leading world-class research in support of sustainability and renewable energy.  

Creating a brighter future for generations to come is something UniSQ is committed to now more than ever, supporting the growing energy needs of our communities, while working towards doing less harm to the planet.

Enter renewable energy and the composite materials that create the infrastructure to power this clean energy.

Getting to the heart of the problem

Associate Professor Xeusen Zeng, Director of UniSQ’s Centre for Future Materials is working in partnership with ACCIONA Energia’s MacIntyre Wind Farm– one of the largest onshore wind farms in the Southern Hemisphere, located in Southeast Queensland.

Working in collaboration with ACCIONA Energia, Associate Professor Zeng is working on reducing the fire risk to this infrastructure and how to improve the flame resistance of the fibre composite material used to create the wind turbines.

“We are using our own production line to create components to test for bush fire resistance of turbine infrastructure,” says Associate Professor Zeng.

“Bushfires are unfortunately a natural threat to wildlife, nature and infrastructure alike. Our research aims to develop ecofriendly, highly effective yet cost-competitive fire-retardant composite materials that ensure the safety of wind farm infrastructures.”

Composite materials are made by taking one material and surrounding it with fibres or fragments of a stronger material. But creating them is no small feat. Helping to solve industrial-sized problems for Associate Professor Zeng, and other researchers at the University of Southern Queensland, is made possible with the help of industrial-sized machines – like UniSQ’s radial braiding machine.

The first of its kind in Australia

UniSQ’s double ring braider is the first and only of its kind in Australia and is used specifically for the creation of advanced composite structures.

The machine is being used by Associate Professor Zeng in his leading research of fire-resistance composite materials for the MacIntyre Wind Farm.

“The braider is part of advanced composites manufacturing research facilities at UniSQ, helping businesses to accelerate composites technology commercialisation for civil, defence, aerospace and space,” says Associate Professor Zeng.

The double ring braider can braid carbon, glass, Kevlar, thermoplastic, and co-mingled yarns for the generation of complex lightweight dry-fibre preforms on industrial scales. The machine is also combined with a Yaskawa six-axis robot in a production cell, allowing for automated fibre placement. The braider is combined with UniSQ’s existing Pultrex pultrusion machine.

The machine is being used to create fibre composites used by industry to create things like bridges, light poles, and wind turbine blades, while reducing or maintaining the cost to produce such materials in a winning combination for industry and the environment.

Solutions for sustainable energy 

The creation of composite materials for renewable energy could help the adoption of wind power in years to come. And UniSQ’s role in protecting such infrastructure is supporting environmental sustainability now and in the future.

“Wind turbines are big capital assets,” says Associate Professor Zeng. “So protecting these assets and the environments where they are located is very important.”

Working closely in partnership with ACCIONA Energia, UniSQ will also support ongoing development and support of engineers at the Wind Farm.

“After this, we will provide upskill training of regional engineers at the MacIntyre Wind Farm. We will provide training courses on fibre composite materials to support the technical staff with the design and maintenance of this type of material,” said Associate Professor Zeng.