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NANOCOMPOSITES | MATERIALS Graphene: one to watch?


Use of graphene in polymer compounds is in its early stages, but suppliers are confident that a proliferation of development partnerships make this a material to keep an eye on, writes Jennifer Markarian


The broader use of graphene nanomaterials in composites is certainly at a very early stage but many experts hold high hopes that graphene will prove to be a performance-enhancing nano-addi- tive for thermoplastics (as well as finding applica- tion in other non-plastic applications ranging from battery anode materials to concrete and even clothing). As a consequence, academic researchers press on with projects to improve capabilities, nanomaterial manufacturers are launching partner- ships, and graphene industry associations are adding members as they seek to drive commer- cialisation and industry growth. Carbon-based nano-materials can be produced in various forms, including multi-wall and single-wall carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs and SWCNTs) as well as graphene nanoplatelets. Structurally, MWCNTs can be imagined as a rolled sheet, SWCNTs as a tube and graphene nanoplatelets as two-dimen- sional flat sheets (SWCNTs are, for this reason, sometime referred to as graphene nanotubes). The structural form is significant in determining the specific property set. “Different morphologies and surface energies produce different composite properties, because nanocomposite properties depend on the bonds between the layers and functionalities at the edges of the nanomaterial. Behaviour also depends on adhesion to the target polymer system,” explains Bamidele Ali, Chief Commercial Officer at XG Sciences, which is


www.compoundingworld.com


focusing on graphene nanoplatelets where they see the most opportunities for commercialisation in a wide range of applications and markets. Graphene was first isolated back in 2004 at the University of Manchester in the UK. It now hosts the National Graphene Institute, the collaborative Graphene Engineering and Innovation Centre (GEIC), and the Henry Royce Institute. The latter focuses on materials, including graphene. In a presentation at AMI’s Performance Polypro- pylene conference in Germany in May this year, Dimitrios Papageorgiou, from the National Gra- phene Institute, shared some of the potential uses for graphene in composites, including structural reinforcement in polymer nanocomposites. He presented research that looked at combining graphene nanoplatelets and short glass fibre reinforced PP that found that the fillers “act additively in the hybrid system.” Meanwhile, UK-based Colloids Group, a subsidi-


ary of Tosaf, is funding a joint collaborative PhD research project at the GEIC. The three/four-year project aims to develop and scale up new polymer- graphene nanocomposites with enhanced proper- ties and that offer multifunctional capabilities that are not currently available. The research, under the guidance of the Colloids R&D team, will take place at the University of Manchester with the Advanced Nanomaterials Group led by Dr Mark A Bissett and Professor Ian A Kinloch. The researchers will look at


December 2019 | COMPOUNDING WORLD 35


Main image: Colloids is funding research at the University of Manchester to develop graphene- based com- pounds and masterbatches


IMAGE: COLLOIDS


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