Swinburne’s Distinguished Professor Christopher Berndt has been awarded the $50,000 2021 Victoria Prize for Science and Innovation in the Physical Sciences for his innovative work focused on advancing surface engineering.
The award is supported by the Victorian Government and delivered in partnership with veski.
Distinguished Professor Berndt is a global leader in his field. He is the Director of the Surface Engineering for Advanced Materials (SEAM) training centre that is funded by the Australian Research Council.
Given the estimated cost of wear and corrosion is 4-5 per cent of gross domestic product in nations such as Australia, surface engineering produces important economic and environmental impacts. Coatings formed by a manufacturing process known as ‘thermal spray’ have industrial applications that experience demanding operating environments, for example in mining, power generating equipment, and heavy industry – the global thermal spray coating market exceeds US$10 billion.
‘Every artifact in the universe has a surface. If the properties of this surface can be designed and controlled, then society benefits. For example, a surface of an artificial hip or knee that integrates with tissue, a coating on a jet turbine that can better resist the high combustion temperatures, an engineered coating or surface modification on an industrial pipeline that resists corrosion: all examples where research is critical for an industrialized nation such as Australia,’ says Distinguished Professor Berndt.
Outcomes of Distinguished Professor Berndt’s achievements in building reliable surface engineering capabilities and technology boost Victoria’s international access to markets, and therefore Australia’s position in advanced manufacturing.
‘I started off as a cadet metallurgist, straight from high school, with BHP in Whyalla in South Australia. I had the opportunity to learn and experience the steel making industry from the practical hands-on viewpoint. I wanted to learn more – that is, why different metals behaved in strange ways. It all grew from there, and still continues, because I was, and still am, really inquisitive.’
‘I represent a team of engineers and scientists who have inspired me, and challenged me in many ways. This veski Prize for Science and Innovation acknowledges our hundreds of man-years of STEM investment, which I fully intend to leverage further into the future.’