Revolutionary mirror changing cars and solar power

Professor Peter Murphy was awarded a prestigious Clunies Ross Award for creating the world’s first lightweight and shatterproof car mirror lens. He’s greatly honoured of course, but believes the story has just begun.

Prof Murphy worked with industry partner SMR Automotive to develop the concept, and SMR has already manufactured and sold more than 1.5 million units to car makers in the US.

“The technology behind the plastic mirror has been a stepping stone in the development of a world-class, clean room based thin film coating manufacturing facility and capability at SMR’s Adelaide manufacturing plant,” he said.

“Since the release of the plastic mirror, the thin film coating technology has evolved further to create new opportunities in decorative coatings and specialist lighting applications in high end vehicles manufactured in Europe and the US.”

There are developments elsewhere as well. Prof Murphy and colleagues in UniSA’s Future Industries Institute (FII) are working with Adelaide start-up company Heliostat-SA, using the same innovative thin-film technology to make solar power generation more efficient.

Instead of passively soaking up ambient sunlight, these innovative systems use heliostats – mirrors, effectively – to track the sun and concentrate its energy onto thermal collectors or photo-voltaic cells, which then convert it into electricity with unequalled efficiency. The film on the mirror surface is only nanometers thick, crating superior heliostats that attain high optical efficiency but require less maintenance.

Heliostat-SA recently delivered and installed $1million worth of heliostats to Mitsubishi Hitachi in Japan.

Prof Murphy spent a decade working on R&D for SOLA International Holdings, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of plastic ophthalmic and sun lenses, before joining UniSA. His research extends to applications in the optical, automotive, defence, mining and renewable energy sectors.

He was appointed one of the University’s inaugural Industry Professors in 2015 and is now Strand Leader and David Klingberg Chair in Energy and Advanced Manufacturing within FII.

Institute Director Prof Emily Hilder says its exactly the kind of work FII was established to do. “We pride ourselves on creating new industries through collaboration, and then supporting them to embrace technological innovations to evolve new practice and create new products,” she said.