A collaborative partnership between Lockheed Martin, Australian manufacturer Omni Tanker and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) will look to develop and commercialise world-first composite tank technologies, thanks to a grant from the Federal Government’s Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC).
The co-funded project, announced as part of AMGC’s Commercialisation Fund launch and worth a total $1.4 million, will utilise two revolutionary home-grown technologies to solve the challenges of using composites for the transportation and storage of liquid hydrogen with applications on ground, in the air, underwater and in space.
Combining nano-engineering technology developed by UNSW in partnership with Lockheed Martin and Omni Tanker, and Omni Tanker’s patented OmniBINDTM technology, the collaboration will result in the development of two new operational scale propellant tanks for storing cryogenic liquid fuels for commercial and civil satellite programs: a “Type IV” fluoropolymer-lined carbon fibre composite tank and a “Type V” linerless carbon fibre composite tank, both of which are suitable for high pressures, the extreme cryogenic temperatures required for liquid hydrogen as well as oxygen, hydrogen peroxide and hydrazine.
David Ball, Regional Director Australia and New Zealand, Lockheed Martin Space, said the development of composite tanks that are lightweight, cost-effective, and resistant to microcracking and permeation represents a unique and innovative technological solution with significant space applications.
“As the world increasingly looks to hydrogen for emission-free energy, containing and transporting it in a safe, cost-effective and economic manner remains extremely challenging,” he said. “The space industry is particularly interested in the development of linerless composite tanks for their weight efficiency and durability, which represent the cutting edge of composite pressure vessel manufacturing.”
“These advances have the potential to support the growth of Australia’s sovereign space capabilities, strengthen exports to space-faring allies and partner nations, and make an important technological contribution to future space missions particularly in on-orbit storage, launch and deep space exploration,” he said.
“Creating a lightweight vessel for transporting liquid hydrogen at minus 253 degrees Celsius is no simple thing – whether you’re moving it along a highway or to outer space – but it’s Australian know-how that is making it possible,” said Dr Jens Goennemann, Managing Director, AMGC.
The project builds on a recent invention by the research team at UNSW led by Professor Chun Wang, which enables carbon fibre composites to withstand liquid hydrogen temperatures without matrix cracks – a challenge that has, up until now, prevented mass-market adoption of these materials for such applications.