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The foundations of steel

The University of Wollongong’s partnership with BlueScope and its predecessors Australian Iron and Steel (AI&S) and BHP Steel dates back to its very earliest days.

The need to train technical staff for BHP’s Port Kembla Steelworks was one of the prime reasons for the establishment in 1951 of a Wollongong division of the NSW University of Technology (later UNSW).

That grew into the Wollongong University College, with a central role to train metallurgists and other technical staff for the Steelworks through the 1950s and 1960s. As well as investing a substantial amount – along with community and government donations – to establish the college, BHP also donated tracts of land and building materials, while also funding the salary of the College’s first Professor of Metallurgy.

Since then the steel industry and the University of Wollongong (UOW), which became an autonomous institution in 1975, have maintained a close relationship through research partnerships, traineeships, scholarships and collaboration on a wide range of industry and community projects.

One of these research partnerships included the BlueScope Steel Metallurgy Centre (BSMC), which was established in 2004. A key goal of the BSMC was to build up specialised equipment infrastructure shared by UOW and BlueScope employees in a unique arrangement.

This infrastructure supported several collaborative research projects, one of which was at the heart of the development of BlueScope’s flagship range of COLORBOND® steel-painted products.

Research teams at BlueScope Steel Research and UOW’s School of Chemistry used state-of-the-art mass spectrometry to monitor chemical processes within the paint at a molecular level, to better understand the durability of the paints used in the COLORBOND® range.

STEEL RESEARCH HUB

Another significant initiative of the UOW-BlueScope partnership is the new Australian Research Council Research Hub for Australian Steel Manufacturing (Steel Research Hub), a focussed collaborative initiative drawing together proven and internationally recognised research talent with their industrial counterparts, across the entire steel manufacturing chain.

This partnership aims to develop and ultimately deliver innovative solutions and breakthrough technologies in steel, providing the manufacturing sector with uniquely competitive processing methodologies and differentiated end-user products.

This ground-breaking initiative, which effectively began in 2015, has attracted funding of almost $13 million over five years, including significant investments from the Australian Research Council (ARC) and BlueScope. This demonstrates the value that both industry and government place in collaborative, cross-disciplinary research.

Led by the UOW, the Steel Research Hub brings together key partner, BlueScope, with Arrium, Bisalloy, Stockland, Cox Architects, Australian Steel Institute, Lysaght and the University of Queensland, University of Newcastle, Swinburne University of Technology, RMIT and Monash University.

Each of its research programs involves managing innovation across the steel industry, with specific activities in Market-Focused Product Innovation, Innovative Coating Technologies and Sustainable Steel Manufacturing.

Each of these programs include an Academic and an Industry lead, supporting a team of chief investigators, partners and research students – meaning that industry needs can be addressed in a joint effort of expertise and commercial experience.

Critical projects include to increase abrasion resistance of steel plate, support steel product developments, develop anti-microbial coating systems and to support Australia’s competitiveness in steelmaking, both economically and environmentally.

SUSTAINABLE BUILDINGS RESEARCH CENTRE

The Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC) is a 6 Star Green Star- Education Design v1 accredited, multi-disciplinary facility that hosts a wide range of research and industry collaborations to address the challenges of making buildings sustainable, in particular pioneering approaches to retrofitting techniques to create more effective places to live and work.

Located at the UOW’s Innovation Campus, this beautiful new centre is alive with student research as a ‘Living Laboratory’ and thrives on collaboration with industry. The building was designed and constructed based on the principles of the Living Building Challenge, pushing the boundaries of sustainable design and construction with hopes to inspire communities throughout Australia to take action on sustainability.

BlueScope has played a key role in the SBRC, with a focus on producing innovative new building materials and systems.

The development of Photovoltaic Thermal (PVT) systems, for example, has led to the successful completion of a range of important and productive SBRC-BlueScope projects. The first prototype PVT system was installed as a working demonstration on the SBRC building forming part of the SBRC 160kW renewable energy generation system.

Subsequently BlueScope secured funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, in partnership with SBRC and the Fraunhofer Institute (the largest research organisation in Germany) to further develop the PVT technology and other complementary technologies.

The BlueScope-SBRC team, together with UOW students, also developed the photovoltaic-thermal system that is now installed on the world beating Team UOW ‘Illawarra Flame’ Solar Decathlon House.

Team UOW was the first Australian team to gain entry to one of the international Solar Decathlon competitions, and took out first prize with their retrofitted, modular, net-zero energy Australian ‘fibro’ home in the Solar Decathlon China 2013 competition.

Bluescope was the ‘Gold Pillar Sponsor’ of the UOW Solar Decathlon campaign, which was a key catalyst for the collaborative PVT research and included the development of the award-winning Team UOW/BlueScope Solar Assisted HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) System.

SBRC research projects include developing sustainable building technologies for residential and commercial applications, analysing and improving thermal design for buildings to reduce the need for using energy for heating and cooling, and developing control and sensor technology to improve building performance.

As well as its key partnership with BlueScope, partners of the SBRC include the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Daikin Australia, Warrigal, TAFE Illawarra, among others.

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