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CSIRO wins DIH contract to develop enhanced CBR respirator canister

Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, CSIRO, has won a $8.65 million contract from the Defence Innovation Hub to develop and commercialise world-leading Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) respirator technology.

The project will deliver a greatly enhanced single canister for respirators that will provide protection for both longer periods and against more potential threats. The technology uses metal organic material rather than carbon based absorbent material to provide more effective protection against a broader range of CBRN contaminants.

This is the largest contract signed by the Hub to date and will help bring the technology a step closer to being realised.

The single canister device is a step change from existing technology. As well as providing protection from biological and radiological agents, it will significantly reduce exposure to a broad spectrum of toxic industrial chemicals, also critical to the nation’s first responders.

CSIRO will be working with Melbourne-based chemical manufacturing business and porous material’s producer, Boron Molecular, and Brisbane-based EPE Trusted to Protect, to develop the respirator, as well as Monash University.

“This investment demonstrates the incredible ingenuity and impact of Australia’s innovation sector to create leading solutions for Defence, contributing to a strong, sovereign defence industry,” Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles said.

Minister for Industry and Science, Ed Husic, said Australian innovations that protect ADF personnel are a critical part of maintaining a secure Australia and region.

“We are using science to create real-world solutions, working with Australian industry to build sovereign capability and turn brilliant ideas into something ground-breaking to protect ADF personnel,” Minister Husic said.

CSIRO researcher, Professor Matthew Hill, said CSIRO has been studying porous solids for around 10 years and has developed an efficient and cost-effective manufacturing process.

“By combining our expertise in nanofibers and porous solids, we’re developing a technology that will protect our military personnel from weaponised toxic chemical gases and vapours and give them a greater chance to safely complete their mission.”

Nanofibres are super-light filters that can stop particles from getting through; they combine nanofibers with some of the world’s most porous materials to soak up hazardous gases like a sponge. By incorporating porous materials into respirators, toxic industrial chemicals can be adsorbed before they affect the wearer.

EPE Trusted To Protect, is the lead commercial partner on the project and is manufacturing the canisters. Managing Director, Mr Warwick Penrose, said the team was looking forward to delivering the canisters to defence personnel and first responders.

The respirator technology featured at the ‘Academy Awards’ of Australian science in 2019, as a finalist in the Defence, Science and Technology Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia.

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