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CSIRO to Further Develop World-Leading Respirator Technology

Image Credits: CSIRO, Press Release

CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, is working to boost the development of ground-breaking protection for the country’s defence force from chemical, biological and radiological agents, with an AU$ 8.6 million Defence Innovation Hub contract to further develop and commercialise its world-leading respirator technology. This is the largest contract signed by the Hub to date and will help bring the technology a step closer to being realised.

The single canister device is a step change from existing technology, providing both protection for longer periods and against more potential threats. In addition to protecting the troops from biological and radiological agents, it will significantly reduce exposure to a broad spectrum of toxic industrial chemicals, also critical to the nation’s first responders.

CSIRO will be working with a Melbourne-based chemical manufacturing business and porous materials producer and a Brisbane-based business, to develop the respirator, as well as Monash University.

The Chief Executive of CSIRO stated that the Australian innovations that protect Defence Force personnel are a crucial aspect of maintaining a secure Australia and region. He added that the government is making use of science to develop real-world solutions, working with the Australian industry to build sovereign capability and turn brilliant ideas into something ground-breaking to protect our troops. The aim is to develop a respirator that will be the most capable in the world.

A CSIRO researcher noted that the agency has been studying porous solids for around 10 years and has developed an efficient and cost-effective manufacturing process. It was noted that by combining the agency’s expertise in nanofibers and porous solids, they are developing a technology that will protect Australia’s military personnel from weaponised toxic chemical gases and vapours and give them a greater chance to safely complete their mission.

Nanofibres are super-light filters that can stop particles from getting through, and combine nanofibers with some of the world’s most porous materials to soak up hazardous gases like a sponge. By incorporating porous materials into respirators, toxic industrial chemicals can be adsorbed before they affect the wearer.

The CEO of the Melbourne-based chemical manufacturing business and porous materials producer said his company was excited to be involved in the development of the leading-edge sovereign Defence capability. The company has been working alongside CSIRO for several years on various projects, but it’s particularly rewarding to be involved in the development of a technology that will help keep our military safe, he said.

The Brisbane-based, Australian Veteran Owned business is the lead commercial partner on the project and is manufacturing the canisters. The company specialises in using advanced technologies to protect service personnel. From Bomb Response robots to Counter Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear capabilities, EPE bring unique skills and experience.

The firm’s Managing Director stated that the team was looking forward to delivering the canisters to defence personnel and first responders. He said the company is excited to be working with CSIRO and its other industry partnerships to ensure that the product produced is not just the best technologically but also operationally meets the needs of service personnel. Ultimately, the team is excited by the prospect of getting this product to protect the nation’s service people, its allies, as well as the first responder community, it was noted.

Monash University, a research partner on the project, will provide critical engineering expertise on the internal canister components. Professor Mark Banaszak Holl, Head of Monash University’s Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering, said his team was proud of the unique partnership with CSIRO to deliver practical solutions for Australia’s first responders.

The respirator technology was featured at the ‘Academy Awards’ of Australian science in 2019, as a finalist in the Defence, Science and Technology Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia.

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