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6th July 2017, Redcar

Toughening resin systems with graphene

Graphene nanoplatelets. © Applied Graphene Materials During 2016, Applied Graphene Materials (AGM), based in Redcar, UK, successfully completed the exploratory phase of its development programme with Airbus Defence and Space.

The programme work is covered under a secrecy agreement but is targeted at exploiting the unique properties of graphene in satellites. Based on the success of the initial work, both parties are now collaborating on a final product development phase, with a desired target to qualify the material for flight use and first application by the end of 2017 or early 2018.

In March this year, SHD Composites, based in Sleaford, UK, launched MTC9800 a graphene enhanced epoxy prepreg system following 18 months of intensive joint product development with AGM.

MTC9800 has already been test-marketed in production volumes to launch customers and is supported by a strong mechanical database that demonstrates outstanding mechanical properties, particularly in fracture toughness, interlaminar shear strength and compression performance. It is suitable for a range of industrial applications, particularly where customers are looking to further reduce part weight and extend life over repeated loading cycles. Anticipated early industrial outlets include motorsport, sporting goods and renewable energy, amongst others. 

MTC9800 is the first public outcome of a JDA signed between AGM and SHD in mid-2015 and follows extensive efforts in characterising the technology, processing and product consistency of a graphene enhanced prepreg system. The new material combines AGM’s synthesised, A-GNP graphene nano-platelets with SHD’s proprietary resin formulations. The new product is also a tangible demonstration of the relative ease by which AGM’s “process-ready” graphene dispersions can be adopted by the composites industry, with minimal disruption to existing manufacturing routes and delivering cost effective performance gains. AGM and SHD continue to collaborate and have further graphene enhanced technologies and materials under development.

AGM has also recently completed the first phase of a development project with the University of the West of Scotland (UWS), Spirit AeroSystems and other industrial partners, investigating the applicability of A-GNPs for enhancing the mechanical performance of resin-infused aerospace structures. While a detailed report of the year-long project is being completed by UWS for later publication, there are several strong findings that can be shared at this stage.

The project employed a modified variant of AGM’s A-GNP10 graphene material dispersed within a high specification epoxy resin system, which was then infused successfully into a contemporary aerospace standard carbon fibre material. Industry standard mechanical tests were conducted on the infused laminate panels without any evidence of significant particle agglomeration or filtration. A range of base resin and composite laminate properties have been tested, with headline findings indicating a substantial increase in resin mode 1 fracture toughness (K1c and G1c), combined with an equally significant increase in laminate interlaminar shear strength.  Other key process or performance parameters were otherwise largely observed to remain unchanged.

Toughening base resin systems and increasing the interlaminar properties of composite structures, within the processing parameters of suitable infusion systems is a key industry technology development driver.  AGM and its partners consider these initial findings to be highly encouraging and further optimisation development work has already commenced in building on these baseline improvements.

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