Graphene Macromolecules To Transform Plastics.
Scientists in Germany led by the Freiburg Materials Research Center (FMF) at the University of Freiburg, have succeeded in combining graphene macromolecules with polymers, potentially transforming the global plastics industry forever. Adding to the Freiburg team are the University of Bayreuth, the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM) in Berlin, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials in Freiburg. The project named “FUNgraphen,” has created new carbon macromolecules from graphene plus other carbon composite materials with unique properties. Best of all, their new process promises to be low cost and scalable at an industrial level.
With the usual German efficiency expected, the project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and led by the chemist Prof. Dr. Rolf Mülhaupt, managing director of the FMF. It is coordinated by the FMF and in typical German forward thinking, has the support of an industrial advisory board.
In the new advance, individual layers of carbon atoms, become physically and chemically attached to polymers producing carbon “macromolecules,” giant carbon molecules which are less than a millionth of a millimeter thick but can have widths of more than a hundredth of a millimeter. The result, carbon macromolecules that are far more versatile than the carbon nanoparticles in use today, opening up new potential for the development of sustainable materials and technologies. “They have the potential to vastly improve resource and energy efficiency of plastics,” stated Professor Mülhaupt. “The applications range from printed electronics to printed catalysts with a pore design for the production of fine chemicals with simple catalyst recovery.”
Light, durable, environmentally friendly, and electrically conductive, they are resistant to heat, chemicals, and radiation and are impermeable to gas and liquids. The team dispersed several of these large carbon molecules in water, nontoxic solutions, and plastics to produce concentrated stable dispersions without requiring either binders or dispersing aids. These mixtures can be used to coat surfaces and print conductive carbon films as well as electrically conducting micro patterns. The printed conductive carbon layers are much more mechanically robust than printed indium tin oxide layers. The scientists posit that the new carbon will replace much of the far more expensive indium and palladium used in industry.
So where are the new carbon Macromolecules leading us? Well the teams were successful in mechanically reinforcing plastics and rubber with carbon macromolecules and simultaneously making them electrically conductive, resistant to radiation, and more gas-tight. These substances are interesting candidates for application in antistatic and impermeable fuel tanks and fuel lines, casings that are shielded against electromagnetic interferences, and gas-tight automobile tires for reducing fuel consumption in transportation.
Meanwhile the team at the University of Bayreuth has substantially reduced the cell sizes in foams by adding carbon macromolecules, allowing for the improvement of the thermal insulation properties of foams and the development of new, highly efficient insulating materials. The age of cheap, non-flammable, electric conducting, heat resistant, heat dissipating, plastic is about to dawn it seems. Using graphene with plastics will develop into a major use of graphene ahead, I suspect.
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