Project

PolyGraph Project - Concept and Objectives

Concept

GrapheneThe concept of PolyGraph is to develop new production techniques which will deliver industrial scale quantities of graphene-reinforced thermosetting polymers.

These materials will be suitable for use in a number of key applications where improvements are needed in the strength, stiffness, toughness, electrical conductivity and thermal and barrier properties of polymers; such as fibre-reinforced composite resins, coatings and adhesives.

PolyGraph will address these issues by developing two new routes to industrial-scale quantities of graphene-reinforced thermosetting polymers; both starting from a relatively inexpensive expanded graphite starting material.

In the first route, we will develop new chemical and mechano-chemical methods to exfoliate the expanded graphite and produce graphene. Alongside this, we will develop the equipment and techniques necessary to disperse the graphene into low-viscosity thermosetting polymer resins in a uniform, consistent and scalable basis.

Our second route will go a step further and will develop the equipment and techniques to enable in-situ exfoliation of the expanded graphite and dispersion of the resulting graphene in a single operation, directly in the low-viscosity thermosetting polymer resins.

From here, we will optimise production methods to ensure that the graphene remains well dispersed during the production of fibre-reinforced composites, adhesives and coatings, so that the materials are ready for immediate up-take by industry.

To prove this new technology, we will produce demonstrator components from key target sectors such as aerospace and automotive.

Objective

The ultimate aim of PolyGraph is to develop a process in which graphene can be produced and dispersed "in-situ" within thermosetting polymer resins, using relatively inexpensive expanded graphite as a starting material.

We propose a staged approach to reach this ambitious goal, starting with production of graphene via new chemical and mechano-chemical methods and its subsequent dispersion in thermosetting resins. We will then further develop and modify existing mixing and dispersion equipment to enable the exfoliation of expanded graphite to be carried out directly in thermosetting polymers.

A further aim is to optimise techniques for the production of fibre-reinforced composites, adhesives and coatings, to ensure that the graphene remains well distributed in the final part.

As a result, we will significantly lower the overall cost of these materials and make them viable for use in the wider composites, coatings and adhesives industries.

To achieve this, the following specific objectives have been set:

  • Produce grades of specially designed graphite suitable for subsequent processing
  • Use the new graphite to produce graphene via chemical and mechano-chemical methods
  • Develop the equipment and processes to exfoliate and disperse graphene in thermosetting resins
  • Utilise state of the art methods to monitor the dispersion process
  • Develop, optimise and test the resin formulations for use in composites, adhesives and coatings
  • Optimise fibre-reinforced composite, coating and adhesive production techniques such that the graphene remains well-dispersed during component production
  • Scale-up of the novel equipment and production techniques
  • Produce and test four demonstrator parts for key sectors
  • Carry out health, environmental, and economic assessment in a life cycle context for the newly developed materials and processes
  • Close the price-performance gap which currently exists for commercially available graphene

This project has received funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement No 604143.