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Fabricating future metals

23 July 2008


Professor Barry Muddle

A Monash engineer is leading the quest for the holy grail of aircraft manufacturing -- a lighter, cheaper aluminium alloy.

Based at Monash University's Department of Materials Engineering, Federation Fellow Professor Barry Muddle is Research Director of the A$14.5 million ARC Centre of Excellence for Design in Light Metals.

The Centre strengthened its international reputation in September 2007 when it signed an agreement with the Aluminum Corporation of China -- the biggest player in the fastest growing major aluminum market in the world.

The partnership is significant, given that China expects to start making large, homegrown commercial aircraft by 2020 and needs light aluminium alloys to increase the efficiency of its new jets. Aircraft manufacturers globally are committed to taking the weight off to reduce fuel costs and this means finding lighter materials with the strength of traditional aluminium.

For example, the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner is 80 per cent composite material -- currently a lighter alternative to aluminium -- but it is also more expensive to make, so there is a huge opportunity for new products.

In a major national initiative, the Centre has formed the Australian Partnership in Light Metals Research with the CSIRO Light Metals Flagship and the CAST Co-operative Research Centre -- a collaboration between government, industry and research bodies.

Under ARC funding arrangements, the Centre will receive Commonwealth funding of A$2.9 million a year for five years. Combined with participant contributions from five other university partners, the Victorian government and the CSIRO National Flagships Collaboration Fund, the Centre will operate on a budget of over A$25 million for the next five years.

Monash is a partner in six Australian Research Council Centres of Excellence, including light metals. Australia is the world's largest producer of bauxite, the raw material from which aluminium is made.

More information

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Australian Research Council

CSIRO

CAST