During 2016 AGM successfully completed the exploratory phase of its development program with Airbus Defence and Space. The program work is covered under a secrecy agreement but is targeted at using the unique properties of graphene in satellites. Based on the success of the initial work both parties are now collaborating on a final product development phase, with a desired target to qualify the material for flight use and first application by the end of 2017 or early 2018.
Following 18 months of intensive joint product development between AGM and SHD Composites Ltd (SHD), SHD will officially launch an industry leading graphene enhanced epoxy prepreg system – MTC9800 – at JEC World exhibition (Paris, March 14-16 2017).
MTC9800 has already been test-marketed in production volumes to launch customers and is supported by a strong mechanical database that demonstrates outstanding mechanical properties, particularly in fracture toughness, interlaminar shear strength and compression performance. MTC9800 is suitable for a range of industrial applications, particularly where customers are looking to further reduce part weight and extend life over repeated loading cycles. Anticipated early industrial outlets include Motorsport, Sporting Goods and Renewable Energy, amongst others.
MTC9800 is the first public outcome of a JDA signed between AGM and SHD in mid-2015 and follows extensive efforts in characterising the technology, processing and product consistency of a graphene enhanced prepreg system. The new material combines AGM’s unique, synthesised, A-GNP graphene nano-platelets with SHD’s proprietary resin formulations. The new product is also a tangible demonstration of the relative ease by which AGM’s “process-ready” graphene dispersions can be adopted by the composites industry, with minimal disruption to existing manufacturing routes and delivering cost effective performance gains. AGM and SHD continue to collaborate and have further graphene enhanced technologies and materials under development.
AGM have recently completed the first phase of a development project with the University of the West of Scotland (UWS), Spirit AeroSystems and other industrial partners, investigating the applicability of A-GNPs for enhancing the mechanical performance of resin infused aerospace structures. While a detailed report of the year-long project is being completed by UWS for later publication, there are several strong findings that can be shared at this stage.
The project employed a modified variant of AGM’s A-GNP10 graphene material dispersed within a high specification epoxy resin system, which was then infused successfully into a contemporary aerospace standard carbon fibre material. Industry standard mechanical tests were conducted on the infused laminate panels without any evidence of significant particle agglomeration or filtration. A range of base resin and composite laminate properties have been tested, with headline findings indicating a substantial increase in resin mode 1 fracture toughness (K1c and G1c), combined with an equally significant increase in laminate interlaminar shear strength. Other key process or performance parameters were otherwise largely observed to remain unchanged.
Toughening base resin systems and increasing the interlaminar properties of composite structures, within the processing parameters of suitable infusion systems is a key industry technology development driver. AGM and its partners consider these initial findings to be highly encouraging and further optimisation development work has already commenced in building on these baseline improvements.
Over the last 18 months AGM has collaborated with Century to develop and produce a demonstrable working application for its graphene nano-platelets (A-GNPs), and in doing so, has avoided the technical obstacles frequently encountered when combining graphene or other nanoparticles in epoxy resin based carbon fibre composites.
Century has designed, tested and fully evaluated a range of next generation, graphene reinforced, high-performance fishing rods. Initial in-house testing and validation of the Century GT1000 rod was followed by extensive, and near destructive, field testing against large and powerful pelagic fish off the Ascension Islands.
Video evidence along with detailed pre and post-analysis of the rods demonstrated clear performance benefits in the form of:
Century are successfully marketing their new range of graphene reinforced rods to a global customer base.
While the multi-functional potential of graphene has been widely reported, as with many previously heralded nano-particulate additives, the single most significant factor influencing early adoption is the material’s ability to be dispersed within parent matrices - in a consistent, stable and process-friendly manner. AGM’s synthesised nanoplatelets are unique in their chemical nature and this is enabling early-adopters to introduce A-GNPs into existing materials and processes, cost effectively and without major disruption to established manufacturing routes.
Recent independent 3rd party testing programmes, commissioned by AGM, have pointed to significant gains in properties such as fracture toughness, anti-corrosion and barrier performance, resin modulus, electrical and thermal conductivity. Just as significantly, these performance gains can frequently be achieved without negative impacts on other key properties such as wet conditioned service temperature.
A range of A-GNPs and dispersion formats are required to optimise target performances and this is where AGM’s experienced in-house application and product integration team are focused- across numerous end-user collaborations. AGM recently announced one such collaboration, and early adopter of A-GNPs, as Century Composites Ltd (Century), a long-established UK fishing rod manufacturer. Century have recognised and validated the benefits that the unique “custom” graphene material developed by AGM can generate and introduced the material into their latest “Graphex” designs of Coarse, Game and Sea fishing rods. The mechanical property enhancement displayed in Century’s rod ranges that incorporate A-GNPs is attributed to the materials high specific surface area, excellent mechanical properties and capacity to initially prevent and then deflect crack growth in a far more effective way than other advanced nano-particulate additives. Simon Chilcott, Managing Director of Century commented “We are delighted to launch our Graphex range of rods which are becoming available through our selected retail distributors. The development collaboration with AGM has been excellent and we are impressed by the added performance that their materials bring."
AGM recently announced it has been successful in securing funding towards a £300k project awarded by the National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme (NATEP). During the 15 month project AGM will collaborate with The University of Sheffield, SHD Composites Ltd and a major Aerospace OEM. The project seeks to produce lighter and more damage tolerant composites structures by optimising the application of new graphene materials and processing techniques. In practical terms: tougher composite means lighter composite, which leads to significantly lower operating costs for the aerospace industry. The project will characterise the performance and validate the commercial viability of the application of various grades of AGM graphene (A-GNPs). The collaboration team strongly believe further focused programs to lead from this initial work, at which stage the further multi-functional capabilities of graphene will be addressed.
During 2016 AGM commenced the exploratory phases of a development program with Airbus Defence and Space. The program work is covered under a non-disclosure agreement but is targeted at using the unique properties of graphene in satellites. Initial development work has been successful and both parties are optimistic of moving quickly to a product development programme in 2017, with product adoption soon after.
AGM recently completed the first phase in product development collaboration with an innovative European composites business. The initial work focused on enhancing the mode 1 fracture toughness of an already toughened epoxy prepreg system, by employing practical dispersion techniques at optimised loading levels. A product was developed which demonstrated increased interlaminar toughening with G1c average propagation results increased by approximately 15%.
Most significantly the gain in toughness has been achieved without incurring losses in key properties such as resin hot/wet Tg and compression modulus. Further work is planned to push toughness levels further and at the same time draw on the benefit of broader graphene multi-functionality.
AGM continue to work in an EPSRC grant funded project led by Durham University and Sheffield University, that sees Dyson Appliances Ltd and Procter and Gamble (P&G) UK on board as industrial partners. The research programme targets polymer nanocomposites optimised for consumer product applications. The project is focused on the formulation, processing and prototyping of the graphene composites to target a high-volume, low-cost graphene engineering technology. Material properties could deliver consumer benefits through better product performance and extended product life, as well as environmental benefits through lower amounts of raw material being consumed and transported.
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