Liz Nickels spoke to Gerry Boyce, managing director of the UK's Haydale Composites, about how the company's graphene powder functionalization technology could revolutionize the development of fiber reinforced plastics.

Metal Powder Report: How long have you been working for Haydale?
I used to run a company called EPL Composite Solutions. I set that company up in 1992 and it was acquired by Haydale in November 2014. Haydale needed help in developing composite applications for its product. We had spent 22 years designing, developing; testing new composite products so had plenty of experience in that area.

Metal Powder Report: Is this the first time that graphene-reinforced resin has been used with carbon fiber to make this kind of composite plastic?
Gerry Boyce: There are other companies who have mixed graphene powder with resin with varying degrees of success. The difference lies in our patented method of treating the material. Haydale itself doesn’t make graphene, so we source graphene nanotubes, graphene nanoplatelets and multi-layered and few-layer graphene from a variety of existing suppliers. What we do is add the surface chemistry that allows that material to then be mixed into a medium such as resin and evenly disperse and allow us to obtain a uniform performance. So it's all about surface engineering of the nanofillers. At Haydale Composites, once we know what properties are achievable within new graphene-enhanced epoxies we will then work on developing applications with customers.

At the moment we’re undertaking developments with several leading resin companies and also working with a number of end-users including Alex Thomson Racing, creator of the 60 ft carbon fiber reinforced HUGO BOSS racing yacht and Briggs Automotive on the Mono supercar. So we’re actively trying to find and demonstrate platforms that would advertise or promote novel and appropriate uses of graphene enhanced composites

Metal Powder Report: So each case, the graphene resin is mixed with carbon fiber?
Gerry Boyce: It can be mixed with either glass or carbon, depending on the application. Once we’ve added graphene into the resin we can characterize what performance enhancements the resin achieves, and because we’re composite engineers we understand the influence a new graphene-enhanced resin would have on the overall composite. However, while we can see some quite major increases in the chemical performance of the resin, once you add it to the carbon fiber these increases aren’t so apparent. They are, however, still significant enough to make a big difference to composite engineers. For example, we’ve seen a 50% increase in compression after impact, which is one of the main design criteria for aircraft structures. This meant that it would be possible to make graphene-enhanced structures even thinner and lighter and lower cost structures.

This article appeared in the Jan/Feb issue of Metal Powder Report.

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