• Project Information

    GFRP reinforcing

  • Scope of Work

    Specified for electromagnetic neutrality

  • GFRP Products

    Reinforcing straight, bends & ligatures

  • Total Metres Used

    127,228 M

Molecular Horizons Building

World’s most powerful Transmission Electron Microscopes

The University of Wollongong’s Molecular Horizons will house the world’s most powerful Transmission Electron Microscopes (TEM) ; The Talos Artica and the mighty Titan Krios standing over 3 meters tall.

The facility is being built in the endeavour to discover cures for antibiotic-resistant bacteria and other cell modifying diseases.

The sensitivity of the TEM microscopes requires the concrete structure and its surrounding environment to be constructed of ferrous free materials as not cause any interference during the operation of the microscopes. Ferrous materials create Electro-Magnetic Interference (EMI) which can pull the electrons fired from the TEM microscopes – this type of interface is detrimental to the TEM which is require to operate within an accuracy of one-billionth of a meter.

The engineering capability of GFRP made it the obvious choice to reinforce critical areas for this multi-story technically challenging project, possibly the first of its kind to be built in the world requiring specific GFRP design expertise.

The two TEM microscope will enable scientist to be at the forefront of unlocking the innermost secrets of the human cell, developing new ways to detect and attack disease. If cancer is to be cured new classes of antibiotic and Alzheimer’s disease reversed it will most likely be a biochemist and molecular biologist powering these break throughs.

The University of Wollongong’s $80 million Molecular Horizons facility will be dedicated to not only house today’s world-leading technology but also designed to house and care for the future generation of TEM microscopes and research.

Design and Engineering

1. Unique and Effective Design Solutions:

Electromagnetic Neutrality:

The design required non-ferrous and non-magnetic materials within the required zone of influence of the microscope, which excluded the use of traditional steel reinforcement.


The ductility requirements were met in the design by utilising a combination of:

  • Ductility Factors.
  • Performance Factors.
  • Structural redundancies under both strength and serviceability limit states.
  • Appropriate warning systems if failure pending.
  • High recovery potential after excess short term loads removed.
Fire Resistance:

Fire resistance requirements were met in the design by utilising a combination of:

  • More stringent concrete cover requirements.
  • Additional structural system involving catenary draped reinforcement anchored in ‘cool zones’.

2. Durability:

Whilst higher durability was not a specific requirement in this project, since the final relevant concrete members are all internal with an A2 Exposure Classification, GFRP can be a very good solution for durability in many concrete structures.

Construction and Installation Practices

No special tools or equipment are required, installing GFRP can be met using existing readily available tools and equipment. Trades adapt quickly to this new lightweight product being four times lighter than steel. Steel fixers swap tie wire for cable ties and after a thorough toolbox talk of safe and proper handling of GFRP are ready to transfer from tying mild steel reinforcement to GFRP. As per mild steel reinforcement, reinforcement marking plans and schedules are paramount in steel fixers working efficiently – Once workers brake through the status-quo of handling typical mild steel rebar, they find GFRP easier to work with due to its light weight which in effect creates less body fatigue and higher productivity.

GFRP Advantages Materials and Concrete

One of the advantages of using GFRP bars is the non-conductivity of the bars to the electromagnetic field, which makes them suitable for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) rooms. Hence, the University of Wollongong has used GFRP bars as main reinforcement for part of the Molecular and Life Science (MLS) building.

Being the first of its kind in the world, the specialist engineering utilised in this project will pave the way for future projects and generations both in Australia and throughout the world.

The in-depth analysis of all structural element’s was an international collaboration of engineering expertise that seen the project of non-tradition building materials come to fruition.

Rust staining to concreting soffits is eliminated when using GFRP due to zero ferrous material being present on the formwork deck. The only debris generated from the installation of the GFRP is small plastic cable tie off cuts and glass sand grit, both which are easily blown off the deck or integrated into the slab.

GFRP reinforcing is around half the embodied energy to manufacture and as an addition to the electromagnetic neutrality it will not rust or corrode future proofing the concrete elements in which it is used.

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