Cardiff University scientists have recently published the results of a research in developing scalable composites using nanocarbons.

While nanocarbons such as carbon nanotubes and graphenes have generated much interest for their use in composite materials, the issues of repeatability and scale-up have yet to be adequately addressed, with manufacture limited to small lab-scale samples. 

The researchers from Cardiff University and Haydale Ltd explored techniques for component-scale manufacture of hierarchical composites by liquid infusion, using both carbon nanotube and graphene materials. A unique plasma process, developed by Haydale Ltd was adopted for controllable functionalization of large batches of nanocarbons (100s of grams) prior to mixing with epoxy resin. A rheological study indicated that filler morphology, functionalization and fill weight all have an effect on epoxy resin viscosity.

 Using these developed nanocomposite resins a resin infusion under flexible tooling (RIFT) technique was developed. Resin flow studies informed an optimum setup that facilitated full wet-out of large area UD carbon fiber laminates and the resulting materials showed significant improvements in mechanical properties, demonstrating up to ~50% increase in compression after impact (CAI) properties. The RIFT process and tooling were further developed to enable the manufacture of I-section stiffeners and the production of component-scale (0.9x0.55m) stiffened panels was demonstrated. 

The scalability of the Haydale graphene plasma functionalization technique, resin mixing and resin infusion processes has been demonstrated by the manufacture of component-scale stiffened composite panels.  

This story is reprinted from material from Cardiff University, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier.