An Australian transport innovation that started as a lightweight, non-corrosive and safe system for hauling toxic, high-purity chemicals has taken the next step to become a global solution for transporting liquid hydrogen around this world … and into the next.

Australian composite manufacturer Omni Tanker has achieved project success following the development of a breakthrough transport solution to transport and store liquid hydrogen with partners Lockheed Martin, the University of New South Wales, and the Federal Government-backed Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre.

Omni Tanker said the tanker uses world-first nano engineering solutions, and Australian-developed and patented technology, to store liquid hydrogen and helium in a leak-free composite tank. It now says that this technology will open more commercial opportunities for the transport of cryogenic cargoes, spanning the space and terrestrial transport sectors.

The project has taken two years to get to this stage and builds on Omni Tanker’s expansive composite capabilities developed for use across its industrial transport portfolio. Omni Tanker is a world leader in the manufacture of lightweight, composite road tankers for caustic materials.

Omni Tanker's lightweight tanks are made in Australia using advanced manufacturing techniques and are used by domestic and international groups, with exports from Sydney to Europe and North America.

Omni Tanker said that working with Lockheed Martin’s extensive aerospace experience led to the development and manufacture of two new tanks. These are a Type 4, fluoropolymer-lined, carbon-fibre composite tank, and a Type 5, liner-less, carbon-fibre composite tank.

Omni Tanker said the tanks can store and transport liquid hydrogen, as well as oxygen, hydrogen peroxide, and hydrazine at high pressures under extreme cryogenic temperatures. It said that in testing, the tanks achieved their performance metrics in harsh operating conditions, particularly when materials were exposed to cryogenic temperatures as low as minus 269 degrees Celsius.

This led to the successful project, operational-scale demonstrator versions of the tanks for Lockheed Martin’s LM2100 satellite which have now been manufactured at Omni Tanker's advanced manufacturing facility located in Sydney’s west.

Omni Tanker CEO and founder Dr Daniel Rodgers said the $1.59 million project has taken the company’s world-leading composites manufacturing capabilities to new heights.

“By leveraging Omni Tanker’s capabilities, we have been able to translate our composite road tanker technology to the global space sector – where performance, weight, and cost are of paramount importance,” he said.

“Omni Tanker can develop and deliver composite pressure vessels to meet demanding technical requirements quicker and at a lower cost than exotic materials, such as titanium, which are widely used in the space sector.”

Lockheed Martin Australia’s head of Industrial Development, Christopher Hess, said “The global strategic environment is constantly evolving, and Lockheed Martin is committed to working with industry, through exemplary partners such as Omni Tanker, UNSW, and AMGC, to deliver a world-leading space capability.”

AMGC managing director Dr Jens Goennemann said the project demonstrates the importance for manufacturers to look beyond their current businesses.

“With the assistance of AMGC, Omni Tanker has done what more manufacturers should do: seek ways to leverage their capabilities across adjacent opportunities, in this case moving from road tankers to spacecraft,” he said.

“It’s generally not rocket science – except in this case it is.”

Together, the project participants identified a new application for Omni Tanker’s patented OmniBIND solution which links an interior thermoplastic tank to a lightweight composite exterior tank. The use of a nano-engineered additive product, developed by a UNSW, prevented matrix cracks usually present at extremely low temperatures in pressure vessels storing liquefied hydrogen.

UNSW’s Scientia Professor Chun Wang said that the collaborative efforts with Omni Tanker and Lockheed Martin Space had been pivotal in transforming this cutting-edge technology into practical commercial applications.

“As a result of extensive nano-engineering efforts, we now have composite structures that can withstand the extreme cold of liquid hydrogen without experiencing micro-cracking or hydrogen gas leak,” Professor Wang said.

Omni Tanker CTO Dr Luke Djukic said the project represented a significant step forward for the company and a strategic leap in sovereign capability.

“These new material technologies are well-matched to the high-end pre-impregnated composite materials typically used in aerospace yet offer a more economical production method from materials that are readily available,” said Dr Djukic.

“In developing these new products and processes onshore, we have established significant sovereign capability at Omni Tanker. We look forward to leveraging this capability as we move our tanks into operational use across the transport and aerospace sectors here and abroad.”

The co-funded project worth a total $1.59 million, received co-investment from the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre to the value of $700,000, while in-kind contributions totalled $194,000.

Omni Tanker developed carbon fibre composite materials to produce innovative safe and lightweight tanks with exceptional chemical resistance.

Its patented technology solves the challenges of transport equipment for aggressive corrosive and strong oxidising chemicals and has been widely recognised by numerous international awards in the transportation and composites industry.

The company has established a dominant position for corrosive chemical transport equipment in the Australian market, where it manufactures and exports bulk liquid transport equipment to worldwide locations including North America and Europe.

The equipment is available as road tankers, cargo tank motor vehicles, and portable tank containers including ISO and Swap tanks.

It is working on the project with Canberra-based Lockheed Martin Australia, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation.

The company employs more than 1200 people in Australia working on a wide range of major programs spanning the aerospace, defence and civil sectors.

The Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) is an industry-led, not-for-profit organisation established through the Australian Government’s Industry Growth Centres Initiative.

Its vision is to transform Australian manufacturing to become an internationally competitive, dynamic, and thriving industry with advanced capabilities and skills at its core.

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