Australian composites manufacturer Omni Tanker in collaboration with international aerospace giant Lockheed Martin and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) has developed a world-leading storage solution for the transport of cryogenic and liquid cargoes of hydrogen and helium, with support from the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC).
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Pairing Omni Tanker’s capabilities with Lockheed Martin’s extensive aerospace experience led to the development and manufacture of two new tanks including a Type 4, fluoropolymer-lined, carbon fibre composite tank, and a Type 5, liner-less, carbon fibre composite tank.
The tanks can store and transport liquid hydrogen, as well as oxygen, hydrogen peroxide, and hydrazine at high pressures under extreme cryogenic temperatures.
In testing, the tanks achieved their performance metrics, particularly when materials were exposed to cryogenic temperatures as low as minus 269°C. As a result of the successful project, operational-scale demonstrator versions of the tanks for Lockheed Martin’s LM2100 satellite 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 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,” Dr Rodgers 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.”
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 nanoengineered additive product, developed by UNSW, prevented matrix cracks usually present at extremely low temperatures in pressure vessels storing liquefied hydrogen.
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UNSW Scientia Professor Chun Wang explains, “The collaborative efforts with Omni Tanker and Lockheed Martin Space have been pivotal in transforming this cutting-edge technology into practical commercial applications,” Prof Wang said.
“As a result of extensive nano-engineering efforts, we now have composite structures that can withstand the extreme cold of liquid hydrogen without experiencing microcracking or hydrogen gas leak.”