Lightweight, High Performance Polymer Composites for Modern Engineering Applications

J. Lynch-Branzoi
Rutgers University,
United States

Keywords: polymer nanocomposites, graphene, lightweight materials, high stiffness, high impact strength, low cost, scalable

Summary:

Modern engineering applications require a new class of materials that offer high performance and are also lightweight. Graphene-polymer matrix composites are promising structural materials due to the exceptional properties of graphene. Here, we demonstrate a general approach to produce graphene nanoflake reinforced polymer matrix composites (G-PMCs) that involves in situ shear exfoliation of graphite particles directly within molten polymer, which provides strong graphene-matrix bonding, possibility for high graphene concentrations, and reduced materials costs. Several polymers used to prepare G-PMCs show an increase in tensile modulus ranging from 200 – 500 %, depending on the polymer chemistry. These G-PMCs offer high modulus and high impact strength at reduced weight and costs relative to traditional materials and carbon fiber polymer matrix composites. This materials substitution offers cost and weight savings in a particular application, operational energy cost savings since fuel costs are lowered, and longer service lifetime since these materials are corrosion resistant. This versatile, low cost, and scalable approach enables fabrication of a new class of high performance PMCs with tunable, multifunctional properties for a broad array of potential applications, including lightweight automotive and aerospace components, lightweight vehicular and personnel armor, and lightweight infrastructure.