One of the barriers to using graphene at a commercial-scale could be overcome using a method demonstrated by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Graphene is a material stronger and stiffer than carbon fibre and has enormous commercial potential but has been impractical to employ on a large-scale, with researchers limited to using small flakes of the material. Now, using chemical vapour deposition, a team led by ORNL’s Ivan Vlassiouk has fabricated polymer composites containing 2-inch-by–2-inch sheets of the one-atom thick hexagonally arranged carbon atoms.
The findings, reported in the journal Applied Materials & Interfaces, could change the way this reinforcing material is viewed and ultimately used. While most approaches for polymer nano composition construction employ tiny flakes of graphene or other carbon nano materials that are difficult to disperse in the polymer, Vlassiouk’s team used larger sheets of graphene. This eliminates the flake dispersion and agglomeration problems and allows the material to better conduct electricity with less actual graphene in the polymer.
If researchers can reduce the cost and demonstrate scalability, graphene could be used in aerospace (structural monitoring, flame-retardants, anti-icing, conductive), the automotive sector (catalysts, wear-resistant coatings), structural applications (self-cleaning coatings, temperature control materials), electronics (displays, printed electronics, thermal management), energy (photovoltaics, filtration, energy storage) and manufacturing (catalysts, barrier coatings, filtration).