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Composite Liquid Wins Australian Innovation Award

01 July 2005

Australia's Licotec Pty Ltd has won the Best Innovation in the Cleaner Production Awards for its microfibre liquid composite aimed at simplifying the fibreglass production process.

Licotec have developed a method for dissolving shorter fibres into the resin, and producing a liquid composite which can be sprayed on much like paint.

Dr. Serge Agafonoff, Managing Director of Licotec believes the composite is capable of bringing numerous benefits to the industry.

“Currently, the majority of fibreglass items are manufactured by applying long fibreglass fibres onto an open mould using compressed air, followed by the application of resin,” but because the resin does not naturally mix with the fibreglass, it needs to be forced into the fibreglass by mechanical means involving rolling by hand. This is called ‘consolidating the laminate’, and requires considerable time and effort, said Dr Agafonoff.

According to Dr. Agafonoff, spraying the composite directly onto moulds eliminates substantial manual effort, as well as the costs of using compressed air.

Licotec’s innovative product was recognised by their work to improve environmental practices through the Industry Partnership Program (IPP) Cleaner Production Awards. The outstanding businesses and organisations are partners in the $5 million program, which is administered by the NSW Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC).

The program provides matching funding for individual businesses, local councils, business clusters and industry associations to develop and implement cleaner production activities.

NSW Environment Minister Bob Debus said the program has been a win-win situation for industry and the environment.

"To date IPP projects have delivered significant environmental gains," said Mr Debus. "These include annual water savings of 32,000 megalitres, 52,300 tonnes less waste going to landfill and a 32,200-tonne reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The IPP projects have also already achieved annual savings of almost $9 million for the participating companies, a figure that will rise once the projects are finalised. The NSW Government has been pleased to support the industry partners during the four year program (from 2001 to 2005).”

Licotec’s development won them the Best Innovation Award which “Recognises outstanding cleaner production innovation in the areas of Product or Service and Process or Management.

Dr. Agafonoff says the award recognises the composite’s significantly faster resin setting time, which reduces emission of volatile organic compounds like styrene by up to 40%. Using the composite is also said to eliminate the workplace health risk of air-born fibres which result from traditional composites manufacturing processes, as well as reducing the amount of waste generated.

Dr. Agafonoff believes the new liquid composite can be applied to a variety of commercial applications that use fibreglass, and the company are currently in negotiation with a number of major resin companies, with the aim of achieving full commercialisation of its microfibre liquid composite around the middle of 2006.