Imagine Intelligent Materials and Swinburne University have announced a collaborative six-month project aiming to develop graphene-reinforced smart composites. The composite will be able to report on the condition of large structures, and will have major commercial potential in the transport sector, including automotive and aerospace.
The project is supported by a $20,000 Seed grant from the university under a program, targeting “interdisciplinary projects that are aligned with the Swinburne research institutes’ external partnership and collaboration objectives”. It will combine expertise from experts in sensors, electronics engineering and aerospace manufacturing at the university.
The research will develop graphene ink coatings for glass fibers embedded in an epoxy matrix. The graphene nanoplatelets used are highly conductive and highly sensitive to strain, and offer an innovative and affordable solution for sensor manufacture.
“The integration of graphene is an efficient and viable way to achieve functionalities in composites to record and report the state of the component in service. In this collaborative initiative, Swinburne and Imagine IM are identifying and tackling the challenges in manufacturing graphene enabled smart composite materials”.
Expected outcomes from the project include understanding what opportunities the technology will offer aerospace and automotive industries, and the potential to migrate it to other sectors, such as defense. Challenges include manufacturing methods, ensuring the reliability of sensors, and evaluating structure-property relationships.
“Smart composites using graphene are an area we have been focused on for several years,” said the Head of R&D at Imagine IM. “The global cost of preventative servicing and maintenance is enormous. By shifting maintenance from needing to be regularly scheduled to being on-demand and IoT-connected will change the way servicing of complex equipment, such as aeroplanes, is conducted”.