One of the most impressive sites on the Monash University Clayton campus is the Woodside Innovation Centre. Located within the gutter-striped New Horizons building, the research and development laboratory is where materials and engineering science meets academia, with amazing results.
Opening 3 years ago, the centre is a collaboration between Monash University and Woodside Energy which seeks to improve the Australian research and development (RnD) scene, says Lee Djumas, Research and Innovation Manager at the Woodside Future Lab.
“It really kicked off as a conversation between Monash University and Woodside about how they can do RnD better.
The focus of the centre is materials science and engineering, which Lee describes as sitting at the border of chemistry and physics. “What it really focuses on is developing new materials, and understanding existing materials, so as to improve them.” says Lee. “Whether that is making them lighter, stronger, tougher, or better at things like conducting electricity, a lot of the materials and products we see today wouldn’t be possible without the advances that have occurred in materials science engineering.”
From mobile phone technology to cutting edge aerospace designs, material science engineering is involved in most modern technological developments. Students visiting the Monash Tech School in Year 8 visit the centre as part of the ‘Superpowers Tour’. While there, they have the opportunity to touch and feel materials that have been developed at the laboratory. One of the most impressive sights they see is a bike completely manufactured from lightweight carbon fibre!
Being located on the Monash University campus, the centre provides the university community the opportunity to help solve some of the pressing technological issues of the day.
“Woodside is an extremely large company, and they want to be part of the conversation in dealing with the big problems we face,” says Lee.
“(The centre) offers an avenue to the community to see how this can be done, and how they can be involved. It’s happening on their doorstep, and many people don’t realise it.”
Lee says that materials science and engineering is a great area for students to pursue work in as it offers them a pathway to have a real impact on the world.
“Without advances in this area, we’re not going to realise a lot of the solutions to the challenges we’re facing, like climate change or population growth.
“If young people want to make an impact and solve the problems of the future, materials science really does present a tangible way in which they can be part of that solution.”