A new lightweight, fire-resistant cladding that can withstand temperatures of more than 1000°C developed by Australia's national science agency, CSIRO, is set to change the face of ships around the world, creating advanced manufacturing jobs in Tasmania and reducing carbon emissions.

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The material, developed in collaboration with Tasmanian small business, CBG Systems, has already been installed on two new ships and used to replace cladding on another.

The prototype paneling, called Rapid Access Composite (RAC) Plus, is the first of its kind in the world and uses a thermal protective coating that can withstand temperatures of over 1000°C and remain structurally stronger than conventional fire protection coatings.

The innovative panels are also reversible and can repel water, potentially doubling their service life. The current design is specific for high speed aluminium ships, but the composite has the potential to be modified for construction products.

Weighing about half as much as traditional metal cladding, the resulting reduction in fuel consumption will lower carbon emissions, leading to greener ships across the globe as well as enhancing overall operational efficiencies.

The new technology was supported through several Federal Government programs and has created new jobs and increased international trade to Hobart.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said the partnership showed the power of science to solve real world challenges.

"By working side by side with industry, innovative science and technology creates new value and growth for Australian businesses to grow our way back from the current crisis," Dr Marshall said.

"This home-grown Aussie innovation has enabled CBG Systems to become an advanced manufacturer of globally-competitive marine insulation products and services, which is now bringing in valuable export dollars from around the world."

CSIRO Senior Experimental Scientist Mel Dell'Olio spent four months at CBG in Hobart, training and upskilling employees in advanced manufacturing techniques and assisting with the commercialisation process.

During that time the team manufactured 2500 insulation panels, which are now being built into new ships to supply international customers, all meeting the relevant fire standard tests for the marine industry and offering at least 60-minutes of fire protection.

Mr Dell'Olio said CBG Systems’ long history of research and development in marine fire protection had been demonstrated again through the innovative RAC Plus.

"To be filling production orders within two years of the first project meeting, demonstrates how Australian SME manufacturers can benefit from positive research partnerships," Mr Dell'Olio said.

Managing Director of CBG, Javier Herbon, said that CSIRO had decades of experience and expertise in developing advanced new materials with special properties for industry, such as fire-resistance, durability and protection.

"Being able to access the wealth of scientific knowledge and innovation within CSIRO has been an incredibly enriching experience for everyone at CBG Systems," Mr Herbon said.

"With three ships already ordered, and two ships complete, CBG systems has hired six new roles, with partners and suppliers also increasing their staff as a result.

"This project shows how innovations from CSIRO can help Australian businesses create manufacturing jobs."

CBG Systems has lodged their own patent on RAC Plus and recent fire tests indicate the new and improved panels, with greater durability and fire-resistance, can be used on steel ships and aluminium high-speed crafts. There are also potential applications in aerospace such as for battery enclosures, and the civil construction industry, enabling CBG to expand into new markets.

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Images

  • Inside the CBG factory

    CBG Systems has been a manufacturer of passive fire protection systems for the past 30 years and their panelling is currently found on 90 per cent of the world’s high-speed ferries.

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  • Close up of a panel

    The innovative panels use a thermal non-intumescent based protective coating that applies CSIRO’s patented Hybrid Inorganic Polymer Systems (HIPS) technology.  ©FLOODLIGHT MEDIA

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  • Distant view of the panel at an angle

    The RAC Plus panels are fully non-combustible and remain structurally strong after exposure to extreme heat.  ©FLOODLIGHT MEDIA

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  • Scientist holds up a white panel.

    Senior experimental scientist, Mel Dell’Olio, holds up a sample of the new and improved RAC Plus fire-resistant panels.

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