Led by RMIT University's Professor Adrian Mouritz and funded by the Australian Department of Defence in conjunction with the US Navy, researchers developed a revolutionary spray-on technology utilising polymers that can be squirted onto cracked or damaged fibre composite surfaces to repair them within 10 minutes.
Professor Mouritz said, "At the moment, if you damage a composite, whether it's an aircraft, a naval ship, a wind turbine blade or anything, you need to take it out of service, so you can't use it. You've got to cut out, or grind out the damaged area and then put new material in, and that's a pretty slow and expensive way to do it."
The research aims to prevent blazes like the one that destroyed HMAS Bundaberg, a $54 million navy patrol boat, in 2014. Preserving Defence fleets is critical work, but protecting personnel is even more important. Fires on ships at sea or while docked can threaten lives, not to mention millions of dollars in infrastructure.
"The work we've been doing with Defence is to develop models the Navy can use to predict, if there is a fire on a ship, how long that fire can burn before it becomes a major safety hazard to the structural safety of the vessel," Professor Mouritz explained.
This development builds on research conducted by Professor Mouritz, which focuses on the effects of fire damage to ships made of fibre composites and aluminium.
Experimental tests have led the team to create predictors used to save lives in ships as well as planes and buildings. Professor Mouritz and his team, who are collaborating with local and international organisations, have also investigated how composite fibres react to explosions.
The team’s insights continue to inform the next generation of composite materials for multiple uses across civilian and defence sectors.
Professor Mouritz's research has led to significant discoveries on various topics associated with composite materials, including their mechanical, fracture and fatigue properties; impact and explosive blast properties; fire structural properties; non-destructive inspection and smart health monitoring; and damage tolerance using through-thickness reinforcement.