Sustainable building materials for a global market

ANFF-Q enables Queensland SME to create new sustainable building materials for a world market by providing easy access to world-class R&D infrastructure.

Rifle Range Footbridge at Bargara, Bundaberg, Queensland, built with new pultrusions incorporating resins.
Rifle Range Footbridge at Bargara, Bundaberg, Queensland, built with new pultrusions incorporating resins.

Science is risky: maintaining a critical mass of internationally competitive scientific equipment requires major capital investment. And without highly specialised staff to run the facility, the potential is never unlocked. Such investment is the province of large universities, research agencies and multinational companies. ANFF addresses this challenge by bringing the research equipment and, more importantly, the skilled scientific and technical staff to operate it with excellence out from the ivory towers and into the real world of small and medium Australian companies. By leveraging this sizable pool of infrastructure and expertise, we can open new avenues of development to Australian industry.

At Wagners Composite Fibre Technologies (CFT), a Queensland company with a global footprint, the in-house R&D staff have been able to access the fantastic resources of ANFF-Q, effectively leveraging their own expertise and direct market knowledge by adding the capabilities of a world-class research laboratory, allowing them to embark on an ambitious new product development strategy to address major emerging global markets for sustainable building materials.

Traditionally the production of composite fibre technologies has been done from the wealth of empirical knowledge that dates back many decades. Wagners CFT is internationally recognised as a leader in the production and application of composite fibre technology. In 2011, it was recognised by the Queensland Premier’s ClimateSmart Sustainability Award for the development of ‘Earth Friendly Cement’, a new geo-polymer based low-emissions alternative to Portland cement that also re-uses industrial wastes such as blast furnace slag and fly-ash. Composite fibre technology involves a fibre or woven material being impregnated with a polymer resin to produce, after curing, a reinforced polymeric material with substantial advantages over traditional materials. Primarily used for bridges, boardwalks and electrical cross arms, Wagners CFT products are a fraction of the weight of traditional building materials and extremely durable—up to six times stronger than steel or concrete.

Wagners is now looking towards the production of the next generation of materials. It’s using the facilities available at ANFF-Q to inform the development pathway. By studying the resin mixes that are currently used and how they are affected by different parameters, a realistic landscape of the properties can be generated. With this valuable knowledge, especially at the microscale, Wagners will further enhance its current products and maintain or extend their competitiveness internationally for high-tech green building products.

“The wide range of equipment and expertise at ANFF has enabled us to really understand the fundamental chemistry and morphology of our products.” Deborah S Ward, CFT Materials and Polymer Technologist, Wagners CFT.