Advanced Materials, Manufacturing & Mining

Revealing the benefits of using new materials for manufacturing and fabricating products on an industrial scale

Our team, led by Professor James Maxwell, work on projects to discover new ways of using materials in the manufacturing and mining industries.

We also conduct tests modifying natural fibres for the Australian agricultural industries, experiment with materials such as polymers, metal and ceramic composites in the construction industry, and develop new advanced fibres for the textile industries.

Many of our projects involve working on developing advanced materials with industry leaders and improving efficiency in large-scale manufacturing processes.

A recent partnership with Bendigo Pottery, saw us using 3D-printing technologies to streamline the fabrication of ceramic products. We have also collaborated with Ritchie Technology to develop new ways of improving the process for recycling plastics.

Our team has access to variety of resources to make our projects happen. The Manufacturing Laboratory at La Trobe University’s Bundoora campus offers a range of machinery for cutting and polishing materials, welding and an advanced testing machine. Our facilities at the Bendigo campus allow our members to examine the microscopic structures of polymer, ceramic or metallic materials to explore new applications for these materials


Lead researcher - Professor James Maxwell

About - There are many forms of specialised materials today used to develop products for specific applications. What if there was a material that could be used for space telecommunications?

Our team of experts in collaboration with SmartSAT CRC worked on researching a material that can refract light based on specific wavelength bands called Photonic Crystals (PhCs).

We developed and fabricated a modified material using PhCs that is the first to have a frequency-tuneable design. This means it can be used to help communications in space between satellites and high-altitude balloons. This material can also be used for an advanced method of chemically analysing minerals and advanced materials.

Our goal is to demonstrate how our expertise can be used to modify existing materials and produce new advanced options which can be utilised across a wide variety of industries.

Partner - SmartSAT CRC

Lead researcherProfessor James Maxwell

About – High-performing composite materials such as fibreglass and carbon-fibre are used in many products for a wide range of applications. Fibreglass can be used to create various production moulds, while carbon-fibre is often used in windmill blades or automotive parts for its strength.

Our team of experts, who specialise in a range of different materials, worked in partnership with the Asian Smart Cities Research Innovation Network (ASCRIN). Together, they explored the outcomes of developing a new material by incorporating nanocellulose. This is a material that possess great strength and is found naturally in plant cells, and can be combined with strong composite materials.

After many trials, we were able to develop a new material by creating a structure where glass or carbon-fibre properties are combined with nanocellulose. This triggers a reaction to grow more fibres. The success of these trials pave the way for further nanocellulose research. These materials have the potential to be used in real-world applications such transport, consumer products and energy production.

We hope our work will provide new avenues for composite materials and allow greater efficiency in large scale industry settings. There is the potential to use low-cost recycling methods by using biologically sourced raw materials such as nanocellulose.

Partner ASCRIN Joint Scholarship with ITT.

Lead researcherProfessor James Maxwell

About – The mass production process of ceramic products is often expensive and requires a high number of units to be sold for the company to make a profit. Custom orders from individual clients can further raise manufacturing costs. Each order requires a new master mould that matches the specifications of the custom product.

Our team, in partnership with Bendigo Pottery, initiated this project to introduce a cost-effective method of mass-producing ceramic products. We integrated a laser scanning system using a PC and 3D-printing technologies. This maps out a digital model of the existing products and make changes without needing to cast multiple moulds.

This method provides Bendigo Pottery with the flexibility to offer a larger variety of products to their customers, while reducing production costs and adding efficiency to the fabrication process. This method could be implemented by other companies to expand the potential of ceramic products in the future.

Partner Bendigo Pottery

Lead researcherProfessor James Maxwell

About – In this project, optical fibres are grown from the gas-phase using an emerging process, hyperbaric laser chemical vapour deposition (HP-LCVD).  These fibres are doped for many important commercial applications, including telecommunications, novel detectors, and advanced light sources.

Partner Leidos, USA

Lead researcher Professor James Maxwell

About – THz Spectroscopy is used to identify the concentration of chemical species in Earth’s Upper atmosphere.   These experiments are carried out on high-altitude balloons.  They are useful for better understanding the interaction of cosmic rays and the solar wind with our atmosphere—and measure their important influence on Earth’s weather and climate.  At close range, THz and mm-wave spectroscopy can also be used to identify mining ores and underground geological structures.

Partner – Institute of Optical Sensor Systems, DLR, Germany

Lead researcher Professor James Maxwell

About – This work focuses on generating new phases of carbon that can be harder than diamond, such as Lonsdalite, from carbon-bearing precursors.  For this purpose we use laser reactive synthesis in diamond anvil cells (LRS-DACs).  This is a new approach to creating ultrahard materials.

Partner – Internally funded

Lead researcherProfessor James Maxwell

About – This project applies novel manufacturing technologies, e.g. additive manufacturing, to the fabrication of segments in automated production/packaging lines, beginning with a simple "inverted can race." Rather than manufacture complex parts through traditional machining and assembly (which are costly), a multi-component 3D model is created and then printed using newly available 3D-printing technologies. The race design is optimized for this approach. Printed materials will be evaluated for their suitability in production lines, e.g. wear and friction coefficients, which are, at present, poorly known. The development of a suitable prototype, replacing existing methods, will demonstrate how both new materials and new designs can be implemented via additive manufacturing, which is still in its infancy.

Partners Foodmach, Echuca, Vic

Our researchers

Professor James Maxwell – Professor in Manufacturing Engineering

Associate Professor Ing Kong – Associate Professor in Manufacturing Engineering

Dr Vipul Patel – Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering

Professor Chris Stoltz AM – Professor of Practice in Engineering

Dr Toen Castle – Lecturer in Mathematics & Statistics

Dr Avinash Baji – Senior Lecturer in Manufacturing Engineering

Dr Tommy Huynh – Senior Lecturer in Electronics Engineering

Contact us

Our team aims to broaden the understanding of raw and composite materials and their potential applications.

This knowledge, combined with new technologies, can take the material, manufacturing and mining industries one step closer to an efficient and cost-effective future.

If you are interested in working with us, contact Professor James Maxwell via email or call +61 3 9479 5764 for more information.