INdustrial PROcessing of Nano Epoxies (INPRONE)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: WMG


Epoxy resins find widespread application in industrial sectors as diverse as energy, electronics, infrastructure and automotive. They are ubiquitous for tooling applications and of particular interest is their use in the rapidly expanding composites manufacturing industry. However, there is a significant mismatch between the coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) between the epoxy resin and reinforcing fillers currently used (e.g. carbon fibre/epoxy) which ultimately leads to relatively long manufacturing cycle times. Reducing the CTE of the epoxy to that of carbon fibre would result in significant reductions in composite manufacturing cycle time, enhanced thermal conductivity and further knock on effects of increased tool durability, dimensional stability, wear and abrasion resistance and chemical and moisture resistance. This would allow epoxy materials to compete with other leading tool materials (e.g. nickel iron alloy).

The high thermal conductivity of graphene and graphene like materials has been well documented however, the translation of this property to polymeric matrices, including epoxies has not been realised. This, in the main, is associated with the large contact resistance and poor connectivity between graphene sheets combined with poor dispersion and distribution of the graphene in the matrix. In this project, we propose to overcome these hurdles by the incorporation of hybrid filler systems, where functionalised graphenes (and graphene like materials) having different dimensions from nano to micro are effectively dispersed in the epoxy matrix. This will facilitate the formation of highly interconnected percolated networks of
graphene fillers with reduced contact resistance, increased thermal conductivity and ultimately less of a mismatch in CTE with CF composites.

Planned Impact

INPRONE is expected to deliver new graphene based hybrid filled high-performance advanced functional epoxies for tooling applications with significantly enhanced thermal conductivity properties. This will be achieved via the incorporation of functionalised graphenes having different structures across the length scales so as to maximise contacts between graphene sheets thus reducing contact resistance and increasing thermal conductivity. Furthermore, via novel graphene functionalisation the mismatch in the coefficient of thermal expansion between epoxy resin and filler will be reduced. The
fact that one advanced functional composite material can be made to exhibit a range of properties (e.g. high thermal conductivity coupled with tailored CTE) in a single material, consequently reducing tool manufacturing and design costs, and improving tool performance (e.g. increased wear resistance, durability, moisture resistance) will have a major impact in many commercial sectors.

Companies in the Materials Supply sector will benefit from the supply of materials into the end-user sectors and companies in the Equipment Supply sector will manufacture the machines to make these novel composites. The potential benefits and societal impacts of the project are wide, ranging from job and wealth creation to advanced training of young scientists and engineers. The benefits will be accrued through the exploitation of the materials by companies in the relevant industrial sectors, which immediately include our partner companies: Haydale Composites Solutions Ltd and Huntsman Advanced Materials Ltd. This group (UK based) forms the nucleus of our Industrial steering committee, which will be expanded through an intensive programme of company engagement, assisted by Warwick Manufacturing Group. As this project is directed at the Manufacture of these novel multi-functional materials, we anticipate a rapid translation to the marketplace, with the first products appearing shortly after the project completing.


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Description The key finding from this work was that the use of a single nanomaterial to deliver the target property improvements is unlikely to be feasible, and that the use of combinations of nanomaterials is a more promising route to developing commercially viable materials and products. We have discovered how the use of nanomaterials can affect the thermal conductivity and mechanical properties of epoxy resins.
Exploitation Route Difficult to say at this stage. This project confirmed that further more creative strategies are required to produce organic materials with siginficant thermal conductivity values (above 10 Wm-1K-1) other than by simply adding a single graphene type to an epoxy.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Chemicals,Education,Energy,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Transport

Description The main impact on Haydale Composites Solutions (HCS) is that the findings led to the continued collaboration with a global epoxy resin supplier (Huntsman) as well as sustained research with the University of Warwick . The partnership between the epoxy manufacturer and HCS has expanded beyond the remit of thermal improvements within resins and composites to a point where they now actively collaborate together on a range of materials development programmes involving nano particles covering resins, adhesives and prepregs. HCS are using the data generated in the INPRONE project to inform future decision making with regards to materials selection for the development and commercialisation of nanomaterial enhanced products, including composite prepregs, resins and adhesives.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Chemicals,Education,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Transport
Impact Types Economic