METALLIC cushion technology, once only found in luxury cars, will now be used in roadside barriers as a result of ground-breaking research at the University of Newcastle.
Research led by School of Engineering senior lecturer Dr Thomas Fiedler has uncovered a new low-cost material called perlite-metal syntactic foam, which is made from standard aluminium alloys and volcanic glass.
The ability to produce the high reliability material at a relatively low cost means it can now be used for a much wider ranger of applications.
‘‘Previously similar materials were only used in luxury cars such as Ferraris, ’’ Dr Fiedler, who moved to the Newcastle in 2008 to take up a postdoctoral appointment within the university’s Centre for Geotechnical and Materials Modelling, said.
‘‘Soon, a much larger demographic of the population will benefit from this technology.’’
Dr Fiedler said existing roadside safety barriers were limited, especially in dealing with head-on collisions in confined spaces such as tunnels and bridges.
‘‘This material acts like a ‘‘metalic cushion,’’ absorbing the energy of impact during a traffic collision,’’ he said.
‘‘If crashed into, the structure gradually compresses, controlling the deceleration of the vehicle and resulting in a safer absorption of vehicle impact.’’
With an ability to be compressed up to two thirds of its initial volume, the material could help to prevent injuries such as whiplash and ultimately reduce fatalities, particularly for motorcyclists.
Prototypes of the material have been subject to an intensive research program over the past two years.
Dr Fiedler’s team are now investigating the design and construction of prototype barrier systems to improve road safety with the assistance of a $100,000 grant from Transurban.