Graphene composites: introduction and market status

What are composite materials?

Composite materials (also referred to as composition materials, or simply composites) are materials formed by combining two or more materials with different properties to produce an end material with unique characteristics. These materials do not blend or dissolve together but remain distinct within the final composite structure. Composite materials can be made to be stronger, lighter or more durable than traditional materials due to properties they gain from combining their different components.

Most composites are made up of two materials - the matrix (or binder) surrounds a cluster of fibers or fragments of a stronger material (reinforcement). A common example of this structure is fiberglass, which was developed in the 1940’s to be the first modern composite and is still in widespread use. In fiberglass, fine fibers of glass, which are woven into a cloth of sorts, act as the reinforcement in a plastic or resin matrix.

composite crossection image

While composite materials are not a new concept (for example, mud bricks, made from dried mud embedded with straw pieces, have been around for thousands of years), recent technologies have brought many new and exciting composites to existence. By careful selection of matrix and reinforcement (as well as the best manufacturing process to bring them together) it is possible to create significantly superior materials, with tailored properties for specific needs. Typical composite materials include composite building materials like cement and concrete, different metal composites, plastic composites and ceramic composites.

How are composite materials made?

The three main factors that help mold the end composite material are the matrix, reinforcement and manufacturing process. As matrix, many composites use resins, which are thermosetting or thermosoftening plastics (hence the name ‘reinforced plastics’ often given to them). These are polymers that hold the reinforcement together and help determine the physical properties of the end composite.

layers inside a composite image

Thermosetting plastics begin as liquid but then harden with heat. They do not return to liquid state and so they are durable, even in extreme exposure to chemicals and wear. Thermosoftening plastics are hard at low temperatures and but soften with heat. They are less commonly used but possess interesting advantages like long shelf life of raw material and capacity for recycling. There are other matrix materials such as ceramics, carbon and metals that are used for specific purposes.

Reinforcement materials grow more varied with time and technology, but the most commonly used ones are still glass fibers. Advanced composites tend to favor carbon fibers as reinforcement, which are much stronger than glass fibers, but are also more expensive. Carbon fiber composites are strong and light, and are used in aircraft structures and sports gear (golf clubs and various rackets). They are also increasingly used to replace metals that replace human bones. Some polymers make good reinforcement materials, and help make composites that are strong and light.

The manufacturing process usually involves a mould, in which the reinforcement is first placed and then the semi-liquid matrix is sprayed or poured in to form the object. Moulding processes are traditionally done by hand, though machine processing is becoming more common. One of the new methods is called ‘pultrusion’ and is ideal for making products that are straight and have a constant cross section, like different kinds of beams. Products that of thin or complex shape (like curved panels) are built up by applying sheets of woven fiber reinforcement, saturated with matrix material, over a mould. Advanced composites (like those which are used in aircraft) are usually made from a honeycomb of plastic held between two sheets of carbon-fiber reinforced composite material, which results in high strength, low weight and bending stiffness.

Where can composites be found?

Composite materials have many obvious advantages, as they can be made to be lightweight, strong, corrosion and heat resistant, flexible, transparent and more according to specific needs. Composites are already used in many industries, like boats, aerospace, sports equipment (golf shafts, tennis rackets, surfboards, hockey sticks and more), Automotive components, wind turbine blades, body armour, building materials, bridges, medical utilities and others. Composite materials’ merits and potential assures ample research in the field which is hoped to bring future developments and implementations in additional markets.

Modern aviation is a specific example of an industry with complex needs and requirements, which benefits greatly from composite materials’ advantages. This industry raises demands of light and strong materials, that are also durable to heat and corrosion. It is no surprise, then, that many aircraft have wing and tail sections, as well as propellers and rotor blades made of composites, along with much of the internal structure.

What is graphene?

Graphene is a two-dimensional matrix of carbon atoms, arranged in a honeycomb lattice. A single square-meter sheet of graphene would weigh just 0.0077 grams but could support up to four kilograms. That means it is thin and lightweight but also incredibly strong. It also has a large surface area, great heat and electricity conductivity and a variety of additional incredible traits. This is probably why scientists and researchers call it “a miracle material” and predict it will revolutionize just about every industry known to man.

Graphene and composite materials

As was stated before, graphene has a myriad of unprecedented attributes, any number of which could potentially be used to make extraordinary composites. The presence of graphene can enhance the conductivity and strength of bulk materials and help create composites with superior qualities. Graphene can also be added to metals, polymers and ceramics to create composites that are conductive and resistant to heat and pressure.

graphene and tin layered composite image

Graphene composites have many potential applications, with much research going on to create unique and innovative materials. The applications seem endless, as one graphene-polymer proves to be light, flexible and an excellent electrical conductor, while another dioxide-graphene composite was found to be of interesting photocatalytic efficiencies, with many other possible coupling of materials to someday make all kinds of composites. The potential of graphene composites includes medical implants, engineering materials for aerospace and renewables and much more.

Further reading

 

Evercloak's HVAC technology gets government funding boost

Canada-based Evercloak's HVAC technology recently received a funding boost, with CAD$1.1 million (over USD$807,000) in funding from Natural Resources Canada's Energy Innovation Program (EIP).

The EIP funding supports a $1.8M project enabling Evercloak to accelerate the development of their membrane-based system, which can cut the energy required for air conditioning and dehumidification by up to 50%. According to the Company's founder and CEO, Evelyn Allen, those reductions will be crucial as global temperatures rise.

Read the full story Posted: Jul 14,2024

Black Swan Graphene launches its fourth commercial Graphene Enhanced Masterbatch product

Black Swan Graphene has announced the release of its fourth commercial Graphene Enhanced Masterbatch ("GEM") product, as it continues to deploy broad commercialization efforts.

This new thermoplastic polyurethane ("TPU") masterbatch is an addition to the GraphCore 01 product line. TPU is a versatile polymer that combines the properties of rubber and plastic, making it an ideal material for a variety of applications ranging from industrial to consumer goods; inflatable products are particularly well suited for this new GEM. Using this new GEM, Black Swan has reportedly demonstrated a 25% improvement in light weighting capability, along with other mechanical performance improvements.

Read the full story Posted: Jul 10,2024

Graphene Composites USA selected to join U.S Military footwear project

Graphene Composites USA (GC) has been selected to participate in a research and development program between DEVCOM Soldier Center, Natick MA and UMass Lowell, to develop materials for the next generation of U.S. military footwear.

The program, SWIFT [Supporting Warfighters through Innovative Footwear Technologies], is offered by the HEROES (Harnessing Emerging Research Opportunities to Empower Soldiers) initiative and will see GC extend its patented GC Composite graphene and aerogel technology to develop ultra-lightweight, durable, insulative materials for use in extreme cold weather.

Read the full story Posted: Jul 05,2024

Solidion plans to expand production capacity of silicon-rich graphene composite materials

Solidion Technology, an advanced battery technology solutions provider, has announced its plan to begin expanding the production capacity of silicon-rich graphene composite materials in early 2025.

The amount of energy that a lithium-ion battery can supply to an electric vehicle (EV) is limited by the amount of charges stored in its anode and cathode materials. Although graphite has been the preferred anode material during the past 30 years, silicon oxide (SiOx) and silicon (Si) are two evolving anode materials capable of improving the energy density of EV batteries and extending the EV range by 20-40%. However, the higher-capacity gain of both silicon and silicon oxide is limited by the technical issue of large volume change-induced rapid capacity decay and processing difficulty. Solidion has targeted this technical obstacle and has established a Dayton, Ohio-based facility for manufacturing silicon oxide (SiOx) and silicon (Si). The Solidion team is ready to expand the production capacity for these two types of high-capacity anode materials.

Read the full story Posted: Jun 27,2024

Black Swan Graphene partners with Graphene Composites on graphene-enhanced ballistic protection technology

Black Swan Graphene has announced it has entered into a commercial partnership with Graphene Composites (GC). The Companies will aim to incorporate Black Swan's graphene in the fabrication of GC Shield, a patented ballistic protection technology ("GC Shields"). 

The Company highlighted that GC Shields, with its patented graphene-aerogel composite, have unique force dispersion capabilities which protect users from multiple shots, stacked rounds, and edge impacts while maintaining minimum back face deformation. They are among the strongest, lightest, and most resilient ballistic shields on the market for the law enforcement and defense sectors, according to Black Swan.

Read the full story Posted: Jun 21,2024

Graphmatech and MTC Powder Solutions to collaborate to develop metal-graphene composites through HIP technology

Graphmatech, a materials technology company, and MTC Powder Solutions (MTC PS), a leading company in hot isostatic pressing (HIP), have announced the signing of a cooperation agreement to develop advanced metal-graphene composites for various industrial applications. This partnership aims to offer cutting-edge HIPed metal-graphene solutions to global industries.

Graphmatech's graphene-engineered metal powder combines the exceptional properties of graphene with various metals. This technology brings metals to new levels of performance, making them ideal for applications in electrification, energy-related and high-precision sectors. MTC PS plans to develop and offer HIPed metal-graphene for a wide range of electrification, energy, and Big Science, applications further propelling the transition towards a sustainable future.

Read the full story Posted: Jun 03,2024

Zhik to provide graphene-enhanced water sports apparel to Australian Olympic Team sailors at the Paris Olympics

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has welcomed Sydney sailing apparel company Zhik as an official supplier for Australian Olympic Team sailors at the Paris Olympics. 

The eco-friendly water sports apparel by Zhik will be made from sustainable, plant-based Yulex rubber, with superior thermal insulation, comfort and durability, all while generating 80% fewer CO2 emissions than conventional neoprene wetsuits. The fabric is infused with graphene, that can help return up to 20% more body heat, keeping bodies warmer for longer, regulating temperatures during low-intensity activities and aiding the drying process.

Read the full story Posted: May 02,2024

Black Swan launches GraphCore family of graphene nanoplatelets products

Black Swan Graphene has announced the commercialization of a new product, the GraphCore family of graphene nanoplatelets products. These products, now in full production volume, are tailored to meet a diverse range of needs within the polymer industry, offering various forms including powders and polymer-ready masterbatches.

According the the Company, in addition to double-digit tensile property improvements with less than 1.0% loading, performance enhancements seen at global customer industrial trials include:

* 25% weight reduction with 1.5% loading in TPU;
* More than 20% impact resistance improvement in PP at 0.2% loading; and
* More than 40% improvement in barrier properties in PLA at 1.0% loading.

Read the full story Posted: May 01,2024

Graphene-based masterbatches: Marrying performance with ecological responsibility

GrapheneUP®, an industry vanguard in manufacturing verified few-layer graphene and a diverse array of graphene-centric intermediary products, announces the debut of MASTERGUP® — an innovative line of thermoplastic masterbatches. This breakthrough harnesses the transformative potential of graphene, setting a new benchmark for sustainability and recyclability within multiple sectors.

Graphene, distinguished by its exceptional strength and conductivity, imparts enhanced thermoplastic properties, including mechanical robustness, thermal stability, and gas barrier properties. These advancements extend the lifespan of products and significantly reduce waste, thereby contributing to more excellent environmental stewardship. Moreover, incorporating the graphene GUP® into thermoplastic matrices elevates processability, streamlining the molding, reshaping, and recycling processes. GUP®-fortified thermoplastics demonstrate remarkable endurance through repeated recycling, mitigating material degradation — a commendable achievement in material sustainability.

Read the full story Posted: Mar 27,2024

2D Fab joins consortium for next-gen bio-adhesives

2D Fab has become a partner of the new consortium BioGlue-Centre, a collaborative initiative to make Sweden a front runner in the development of bio-based adhesives. 

BioGlue-Centre is a collaborative effort between three universities and 12 companies, including 2D Fab. With a shared focus on advancing adhesive technologies, the Centre addresses the critical need for sustainability by accelerating the development of bio-based alternatives within the adhesive industry.

Read the full story Posted: Mar 24,2024