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10th October 2017, Australia

Project to develop graphene-reinforced smart composites

Commercial applications in automotive and aerospace.A collaborative project involving Swinburne University, in Australia, and Imagine Intelligent Materials will develop graphene-reinforced smart composites, able to provide real-time information on the condition of large structures. This is expected to enable productivity gains by communicating requirements for service on an as needed basis in the transport sector and leading to significant commercial potential.

The project is supported by a $20,000 grant from Swinburne University under its Seed Grant Program that targets “interdisciplinary projects that are aligned with the Swinburne research institutes’ external partnership and collaboration objectives.” The project will bring together experts in sensors, electronics engineering and aerospace manufacturing at the university.

The research, led by ARC DECRA Fellow and Senior Research Fellow Dr Nishar Hameed, will develop graphene ink coatings for glass fibres embedded in an epoxy matrix. The graphene composites used are highly conductive and sensitive to strain. They offer an innovative and inexpensive solution for sensor manufacture given the cost base of Imagine Intelligent Materials’ manufacturing solutions for graphene.

Smart composites

The integrity of large composite structures can degrade over time affecting equipment performance and safety without being easily detectable. The impact of graphene-enabled “smart” parts will be profound in the automotive and aerospace industries where composite wear and tear can be monitored on a continuing basis and servicing response can take place as a result of real time monitoring.

“Smart composites leveraging the phenomenal properties of graphene is an area we have been focused on for several years. Structural health monitoring of parts for automotive and aerospace, as well as any other composite part, allow real-time monitoring of damage or stress,” explained Dr Phillip Aitchison, Senior VP (R&D) at Imagine IM, the external partner for the project.

“The global cost of preventative servicing and maintenance is enormous. 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.”

Integration of graphene

“Lightweight construction and function integration are the current major trends in the global mass transport sector, and this can be optimally realised through the clever design of fibre reinforced composite materials,” said Dr Hameed.

“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. Challenges include manufacturing methods, ensuring the reliability of sensors, and evaluating structure-property relationships.

www.imgne.com

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