By adding graphene, researchers create superior polymer

May 19, 2008

Researchers at Northwestern University and Princeton University have created a new kind of polymer that, because of its extraordinary thermal and mechanical properties, could be used in everything from airplanes to solar cells.

The polymer, a nanocomposite that incorporates functionalized, exfoliated graphene sheets, even conducts electricity, and researchers hope to use that property to eventually create thermally stable, optically transparent conducting polymers.

The results of their research were published May 11 in the online version of Nature Nanotechnology.

Researcher at the McCormick School of Engineering originally teamed up with researchers at Princeton several years ago. McCormick researchers had experience working with polymer nanocomposites, and Princeton researchers had developed a way to exfoliate, or split apart, graphite sheets into very thin single layer, surface-functionalized graphene sheets.

Previous use of graphite in polymers did not garner significantly improved properties since researchers could never get the graphite exfoliated. That meant the graphite was rigid with a low surface area and could only minimally impact properties of the polymer.

But when researchers put even a small amount the newly exfoliated graphene sheets — enough to equal only .05 percent of the material — into the polymer, they found the graphene changed the polymer’s thermal stability temperature by 30 degrees. Even adding graphene sheets equal to .01 percent of the material increased stiffness by 33 percent — far beyond what researchers had predicted. The drastic changes in both the thermal stability and the stiffness after adding just a tiny percentage of functionalized graphene indicated that the graphene changes large regions of the polymer radiating out from the nanoparticle surfaces in a percolating network structure.

The new polymer nanocomposite based on graphene also exhibited the same or superior thermal and mechanical properties as using functionalized single-wall nanotubes in polymer — but was much easier and cheaper to create.

“This is the first time people have been able to demonstrate dramatically altered properties like this with really small quantities of graphite-based materials,” says Cate Brinson, Jerome B. Cohen Professor of Mechanical Engineering and corresponding author of the paper.

The graphene sheets also will inherently be able to block moisture and gases from penetrating the material as well as change the thermal stability temperature and improve mechanical properties, making the durable polymer a candidate for use in everything from aircrafts to sports equipment to solar cells

“I think it has enormous potential,” Brinson says. “With the ready availability of graphite and the properties we have demonstrated, this new material will enable significant structural scale use of carbon-based nanocomposites.”

Next researchers are studying the polymer’s electroconductivity, quantifying and optimizing the results with the goal of creating optically transparent conducting polymers that are thermomechanically stable.

Source: Northwestern University

Explore further: Physicists heat freestanding graphene to control curvature of ripples

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Doped graphene nanoribbons with potential

Sep 08, 2014

Graphene is a semiconductor when prepared as an ultra-narrow ribbon – although the material is actually a conductive material. Researchers from Empa and the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research have ...

Two teams pave way for advances in 2D materials

Jul 31, 2014

This month's headlines on two-dimensional polymers showed noteworthy headway. "2-D Polymer Crystals Confirmed At Last," said Chemical & Engineering News. "Engineers Make the World's First Verified, 2-Dimensional P ...

From stronger Kevlar to better biology

Jul 14, 2014

Place two large, sturdy logs in a streambed, and they will help guide the water in a particular direction. But imagine if the water started mimicking the rigidity of the logs in addition to flowing along ...

Recommended for you

Twisted graphene chills out

Sep 17, 2014

(Phys.org) —When two sheets of graphene are stacked in a special way, it is possible to cool down the graphene with a laser instead of heating it up, University of Manchester researchers have shown.

Researchers use liquid inks to create better solar cells

Sep 17, 2014

(Phys.org) —The basic function of solar cells is to harvest sunlight and turn it into electricity. Thus, it is critically important that the film that collects the light on the surface of the cell is designed ...

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Rawley
3.5 / 5 (2) May 19, 2008
Vulvox sounds like a drug to help "enhance" women.
COCO
3 / 5 (1) May 21, 2008
'bout time
NOM
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 24, 2008
Apart from his sexual organ, the only thing nano about Neil Farbstein is his credibility.
makotech222
not rated yet Sep 24, 2008
^scientific pwnage!
NeilFarbstein
not rated yet Jan 09, 2009
Where can you get graphene nanoplatelets cheap?