Haydale, the developer of a unique plasma functionalization process for nanomaterials, has announced the publication of research showing its graphene nanoplatelets (GNP) significantly improve the nano-reinforcement of resin. The research, conducted by the Material Science Department at AeroSpace Corporation, has been published in the Journal of Applied Polymer Science.
The development is significant because graphene is highly inert, and is subsequently difficult to bond it with or disperse it within other materials. Current methods for treating or functionalizing graphene involve thermal and chemical shocking agents which whilst allowing for scalable production, can cause significant damage to the material’s structure, leading to defects in the final product. The report states significant strength improvements in toughened epoxy composites, in particular, a greater than two-fold increase in tensile strength and modulus of an epoxy composite using a number of HDPlas O2-functionalised GNP, manufactured by Haydale. The addition of increasing amounts of GNP resulted in strength increases of over 125% and toughness improvements of 100% over that of similarly cured, unreinforced material.
The results underline the potential Haydale’s tailored, plasma functionalization process has for providing the material’s potential.
The research results show the possibility to increase tensile strength and tensile modulus, which opens the possibility to design longer, stiffer, or lighter wind turbine blades. An important additional property implied by the results is that the strain to failure was not compromised by these increased tensile properties, implying that the toughness was maintained, which could result in more damage tolerant blades – i.e. to avoid catastrophic failure in an overload situation. Similar performance enhancement would be expected for other composite structures.
Questions still remain over the commercial reality in delivering graphene and the relevance it has to real products. The Haydale plasma process has potential to offer improved graphene nanomaterials while maintaining structural integrity, thus eliminating a key barrier to commercialization graphene.
The research aimed to determine whether properties such as matrix material composition, the degree of exfoliation of graphene and the filler concentration, size, aspect ratio and treatment method, could maximize the physical potential of the matrix material. The GNP nanofiller material was plasma-treated using the HDPlas O2-functionalised process before being incorporated into the epoxy resin. Once the composite material had been manufactured, it was analyzed and the effects of GNP loading on mechanical performance were assessed.
“Graphene nanomaterials are gaining enormous interest as a new class of reinforcement for nanocomposites, promising revolutionary electrical, thermal and mechanical properties,” said Haydale CEO Ray Gibbs. “The results presented in the new research represent a step forward for the graphene industry in terms of seeing graphene’s potential in the composites market, and further highlights that functionalization by plasma is the key to realizing graphene’s potential. Following this research, we intend to test our functionalized nanomaterials in further research projects with both raw material producers and end-application manufacturers.”
Graphene has such fantastic potential to transform the composites industry, but requires specific treatment without damaging the material structure or adding impurities. To optimize the material’s physical and mechanical properties, good dispersion and structural uniformity of the nanoparticles is the key to making real progression.