PolyGraph project to develop production techniques for graphene-reinforced thermosets

PolyGraph adds that after several years of researching graphene-reinforced polymers, it is now 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 excellent properties of graphene in order to produce high performance polymer components. However, it remains the case that currently 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.”

The PolyGraph project, which commenced in November 2013, aims to develop materials suitable for use in a number of key applications where improvements are needed in the strength, stiffness, toughness, electrical conductivity and thermal and barrier properties of polymers; such as fibre-reinforced composite resins, coatings and adhesives. The ultimate aim of PolyGraph is to develop a process in which graphene can be produced and dispersed ‘in-situ’ within thermosetting polymer resins, using relatively inexpensive expanded graphite as a starting material.

It is expected that the project will significantly lower the cost of these materials and make them viable for use in the wider composites, coatings and adhesives industries.

PolyGraph is a 4 year, EU funded, research project composed of 13 partners: NetComposites Ltd, Timcal, Avanzare Innovacion Tecnologica S.L, YTRON Process Technology GmbH & Co. KG, University of Padova, SAIREM SAS, Robnor Resins Ltd, NETZSCH Feinmahltechnik GmbH, Queen Mary University of London, Centro Ricerche Fiat S.C.p.A, BAE Systems Advanced Technology Centre, SP Sveriges Tekniska Forskningsinstitut AB, and the Institute of Occupational Medicine.

The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme FP7/2007-2013 under grant agreement no 604143.