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Uni in the Brewery showcases innovations in steel

Researchers share insights on cutting-edge projects in steel making and steel products

University of Wollongong (UOW) researchers will showcase pioneering projects being undertaken at the ARC Research Hub for Australian Steel Manufacturing at a Uni in the Brewery public talk on Wednesday 22 August.

Building on UOW and BlueScope’s long-standing history of research collaboration, the Steel Research Hub brings together universities and industry to deliver innovations in steel making and steel products.

Researchers Dr Emma Heffernan, Ms Dan Yang, and Dr Andrew Johnstone will give presentations on three different projects with the potential to deliver significant benefits to the Australian steel industry.

Dr Heffernan will share her insights on a cutting-edge approach to the construction of mid-rise buildings that delivers apartments that are both faster and less costly to build.

“The project is exploring the potential for using loadbearing cold-formed steel frames in mid-rise apartment buildings,” Dr Heffernan said.

“Loadbearing cold-formed steel framing is a construction material manufactured from extremely strong and precisely manufactured metallic coated steel coil. Frames are factory-manufactured into panels to order, then transported to site where they can be light enough to be carried by hand by two construction workers. Assembly on-site to become the floors, walls and roof of the building is rapid, without the need for large cranes.”

“This has the potential to reduce the number of people and activities on construction sites; improve the safety of workers; improve quality control; and reduce the likelihood of construction delay due to bad weather and other causes.”

Ms Yang will discuss new anti-microbial coatings for surfaces that could radically improve the resistance of painted surfaces to “fouling” by microbial organisms, eliminating the unsightly visual effects of fouling.

“Some existing antifouling technologies rely on the incorporation of biocidal compounds, but there are ongoing concerns over the development of biocide resistant pathogenic organisms,” Ms Yang said. 

Instead of directly targeting microbial organisms already infesting a surface, the researchers are developing a coating that prevents them attaching to a surface in the first place.

“Our research focus is on coatings that can resist attack from a range of microbes,” Ms Yang said.

“Some exploratory systems demonstrate significant resistance against various proteins, bacterial and fungal spores. We aim to develop a benign coating that is economically viable, environmentally durable and scalable into existing or next-generation fabrication processes.”

Dr Johnstone will highlight how his team’s collaborative research on the jet-stripping process in the metallic coating line may provide new insights for manufacturing superior coated steel products, more cost-effectively.

The metallic alloy coating is applied by passing a steel strip through a molten alloy bath, then, as it passes out of the bath, a series of tiny air jets strip away the excess coating material to achieve the desired coating thickness and uniformity.

While the process sounds simple, the number of variables involved makes it a considerable challenge to deliver high-quality coated products that meet product specifications and requirements.

The joint UOW-BlueScope-University of Queensland research team has developed a mathematical model that enables the prediction of the coating response under different operating conditions.

"This represents a key modelling tool for BlueScope operational personnel to produce quality coatings," Dr Johnstone said.

"By working closely within a collaborative team comprised of industry, and researchers from multidisciplinary backgrounds, we can approach the challenges from multiple angles and provide skills that BlueScope does not currently have in-house, such as advanced modelling and experimental techniques." 

When: 5.30pm - 7pm, Wednesday 22 August 2018

Where: Illawarra Brewing Co., Montague St, North Wollongong


The Steel Research Hub is one of the Australian Research Council's Industrial Transformation Research hubs, jointly funded with BlueScope and supported by five other industry partners. It is an initiative that began in 2015, with $13.5 million cash and $12 million in-kind contributions over five years.

The Hub's vision is to bring together teams of internationally recognised research and industry talent that deliver innovative solutions and breakthrough technologies in manufacturing and product development, helping to ensure sustainable growth in the Australian steel industry.