Graphene to Step up Fiber Composite Performance
Huntsman Advanced Materials Investigate Composites with Graphene Enhancement
It is considered the miracle material of the 21st century: graphene. This carbon modification features the most unusual properties, most of all high strength at extremely low weight. The material might soon improve composite structures.
Graphene is ultra-light, but extraordinarily strong: Its tensile strength is 125 times higher than that of steel. It also conducts electricity better than copper and can act as a barrier that not even helium molecules can pass through. This unprecedented combination of attributes has helped this material rapidly gain acceptance as an amazing potential material for several emerging applications.
Aimed at a New Generation of Resin Systems
This modification of carbon was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010. However, there have as yet been no commercial applications, because the material is expensive and difficult to produce at large quantities. Hundreds of institutes, companies and start-up enterprises all over the worlds are currently undertaking research and development to change this situation. Huntsman Advanced Materials in Switzerland estimates that the polymer composites market may benefit from these activities, because the potential of graphene can be utilized in this area quite easily and effectively, by combining the new material to existing products.
The company expects graphene to improve epoxy resins, in particular, stepping up properties such as strength and conductivity for electricity and heat. For example, Huntsman, producer of epoxy resins (world market approx. USD 13.5 billion), hopes to eventually apply graphene in its future generation of Araldite products.
Technology for Nano Composites
Huntsman scientists use a low-temperature plasma (below 100˚C) supplied by their development partner Haydale Composite Solutions in Loughborough, UK. The company holds patent for this plasma designed to activate nanomaterials such as graphene and change its surface energy to make it disperse into a medium, e.g. resin. The scientists claim that, while requiring no chemical acid treatment that would damage the product and reduce its functional performance, this process maintains the structural integrity and mechanical strength of the final product.
According to company information, Huntsman has been able to activate graphene in this way, adding it to various concentrations of their Araldite epoxy resin master batches. This was done in order to investigate composite performance in view of new applications with prepregs, improvements in fiber winding or resin transfer molding (RTM).
Table of content
- 1: Graphene to Step up Fiber Composite Performance
- 2: From the Laboratory to the Mass Market