$12m hub to spearhead innovation in steel

Wollongong researchers will receive $30 million in new grants from the Australian Research Council, including $5 million towards a steel manufacturing research hub to improve the competitiveness of Australia's steel industry.

BlueScope Steel will match the council's investment in the steel hub, and other industry players will contribute a further $2 million in research funds.

UOW Associate Professor Brian Monaghan, who, with BlueScope's Oscar Gregory, will lead the hub, said the project would address the economic and environmental challenges impacting on iron and steelmaking.

A four-pronged approach will focus on finding out what the market wants, innovative coating and technology - including for the removal of toxic chromium from steelmaking - and managing innovation, so that ideas can grow into reality.

"[The industry] can often come up with very good ideas, but has trouble implementing them," said Prof Monaghan, from UOW's Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences.

Prof Monaghan will head the fourth tier of research work, focused on sustainable steel manufacturing.

He said the work was aimed at finding new ways to overcome some of the hurdles facing the industry due to the high Australian dollar, competition from abroad and other factors.

"We're bringing together the best and brightest to work on problems that are quite challenging to the industry," he said.

"Some of the research that's going to come out of this will be fundamental, pre-competitive research - stuff that wouldn't necessarily be directly related to the BlueScope bottom line.

"Arrium, the University of Newcastle and [others] have become involved because they see the benefit to the whole Australian steel industry."

Other collaborating groups include Bisalloy, Cox Architects, Australian Steel Institute, the University of Queensland, University of NSW, Swinburne University of Technology and RMIT.

The remaining $25 million from the research council will go towards UOW's ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science, to develop high-tech 3D devices, including soft robotic limbs and solar fuel devices.

The new centre for 3D electromaterials will collaborate with researchers worldwide to further work in smart nano-materials, with the potential for breakthrough in existing industries for batteries, solar cells and medial implants.

Researchers hope to apply the technology to a 3D robotic, prosthetic hand with a neural interface system, and a solar fuel device that would use the sun to convert carbon dioxide into fuel.

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