Development of Multi-Functional Graphene Composites for Aerospace Structures

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Materials


Graphene related materials (GRMs) have the potential to add a range of beneficial properties to carbon fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) composites including improved stiffness, fracture toughness, glass transition temperature, environmental protection and conductivity. This iCASE award with BAE systems is developing new manufacturing routes for GRM reinforced CFRP, with a focus on obtaining a suitable dispersion of nanomaterials throughout the RTM matrix. The role of the GRM dimensions and surface chemistry will be related to the final bulk properties of the CFRP composite with the aim of identifying future routes to a next generation of wing skins.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/P510579/1 30/09/2016 29/09/2021
1811691 Studentship EP/P510579/1 20/09/2016 29/06/2021 Joshua Antony Parkin
Description The aim of this project was to determine the effects of the addition of graphene nanoparticles (GnPs) to a given epoxy system of interest. With GnPs of different sizes and concentrations. The resultant effects of which have been quite promising; in terms of mechanical properties we see a noticeable increase in flexural properties. With the larger GnPs showing slightly improved performance over smaller GnPs. Another property that we were interested in was also that of water uptake within the composites we were producing. Water uptake measurements were performed on samples of different geometry, timescales and environment. We found an improvement in both overall amount of water uptake for the GnP modified samples. With concentration of GnPs not really having much of a difference amongst themselves but a large improvement over the unmodified epoxy (around 25%). However the rate of water uptake with increasing GnP concentration was seen to decrease. The effects on ater uptake on mehcanical properties were also observed, with the GnP composites still showing reinforcement effects with fully saturated composites. With higher GnP concentrations even showing improved mechanical properties over unsaturated unmodified epoxy samples.

Carbon fibre composites were also produced using a dip-coating method to incorporate GnPs effectively into the composites. This produced composites with increased void growth within the material. But improved mechanical properties with low GnP content, with that improvement being reduced with increasing GnP content. Also, water uptake saw little improvement which is still impressive given the increase in voiding in the composites.
Exploitation Route The mechanical findings that have been produced offer some very promising prospects for our industrial partners and also for academic reasons in understanding the landscape of GnP nanocomposites. The effects on water uptake have potential cost saving implications for our industrial partners also and for the sector in general. With the lifespan of these composites being prolonged and also weight saving capabilites show cost saving benefits also.

Investigations into possible production methods have proved useful in terms of showing what is feasible with regards to composite quality and ease of production when incorporating nanoparticles into these composite types.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Chemicals,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology