PolyGraph, a multi-partner EU project led by NetComposites (Chesterfield, U.K.), reports that it is set to develop new production techniques to deliver industrial-scale quantities of graphene-reinforced thermosetting polymers.
After several years of researching graphene-reinforced polymers, PolyGraph says it is well known that the addition of small quantities of graphene can simultaneously provide significant improvements in strength, toughness and electrical and thermal conductivity to a number of polymers. This has raised expectation levels within many industries, such as polymer composites, coatings and adhesives, which are keen to exploit the properties of graphene in order to produce high-performance polymer components. However, PolyGraph says there are no techniques suitable for industrial-scale production of graphene-reinforced polymers.
Ben Hargreaves, NetComposites’ senior project manager, explains: “PolyGraph will address this issue by developing two new routes to industrial-scale quantities of graphene-reinforced thermosetting polymers; both starting from a relatively inexpensive expanded graphite starting material. In the first route, we will develop new chemical and mechano-chemical methods to exfoliate the expanded graphite and produce graphene. Alongside this, we will develop the equipment and techniques necessary to disperse the graphene into low-viscosity thermosetting polymer resins in a uniform, consistent and scalable basis. Our second route will go a step further and will develop the equipment and techniques to enable in-situ exfoliation of the expanded graphite and dispersion of the resulting graphene in a single operation, directly in the low-viscosity thermosetting polymer resins.”
It is expected that the project will significantly reduce the cost of these materials and make them viable for use in the wider composites, coatings and adhesives industries.