Strong spray on 'skin' for engineering applications

16 Oct 2009
A second skin for mining tunnels and water pipes could see ToughSkin take top position in the 2009 UQ Business School Enterprize competition. ToughSkin is a revolutionary polymer product that can be sprayed onto surfaces, adding structural strength and waterproofing in just 30 seconds. Tamantha Stutchbury, intellectual property manager for ToughSkin said the product was initially designed to replace steel mesh in underground mines. "The program has been running for three years now, with 10 to 20 researchers working on it," she said. Research and development manager Chris Lukey said the product was a polymer made up of two 'clear liquid products', with glass fibre added for strength. "There is a reactive component in both liquids. It's easy to apply and is sprayed onto surfaces and adheres very strongly to concrete, stone and coal," he said. "It sets in 30 seconds, reaching full strength in a few minutes, is stronger than concrete and can hold up a greater mass than steel mesh can." Dr Stutchbury said the product, a 'revolutionary polymer for use in civil engineering', could be used in infrastructure repair in addition to its mining applications. "It's cheaper, quicker and easier to apply than other products on the market, and the product has been proved in the lab and now we're ready for the scale-up stage," she said. The polymer, which is capable of holding over 1 tonne per square metre, can also be used to re-line sewerage pipes and extend the life of the infrastructure. "We are looking at the pipe remediation market," Dr Lukey said. "The polymer will also penetrate into cracks, so it can be used to fix leaky pipes without having to dig them out. This is much less disruptive, and the lining is extending the life of the pipe fairly considerably." To advance their product even further, and provide the countless potential mining customers already eagerly awaiting the release of the product, the team behind ToughSkin is hoping to win the competition, offering $100,000 in prizemoney. "If we win, we will use the money to employ a CEO, who can be a figurehead for the company and find more commercial ventures," Dr Stutchbury and Dr Lukey said. "Winning is very important, but if we don't the gains are still there," Dr Lukey said. "It's been a very interesting exercise putting a business plan together, and the competition has really helped us to focus where we want to go."