Plastic nanotechnology: Progress in the industrialization of graphene in electronic, automotive and toys sectors
The theoretical properties of graphene at mechanical, electrical and thermal level are quite attractive at industrial level. For this reason, great efforts are being made to apply them in real applications and products. The European project NANOMASTER, developed during the last four years by a total of 14 partners, including AIMPLAS, has made possible to develop graphene, nanographite and expanded graphite masterbatches (or concentrates), offering the chance to use these particles in the conventional industry of plastics processing, as well as in additive manufacturing processes, such as 3D printing and laser sintering.
Although there is still a long way to go in this sense, NANOMASTER has allowed to learn a lot about the behaviour of these particles. In particular, the project has allowed to conclude that the most important factors when synthesizing graphene are the number of layers, the diameter and the oxygen amount present in the particle. Graphene powder is obtained from exfoliating graphite. The more the number of layers are reduced, the more effective it will be, although we could not consider as graphene a particle with more than one carbon atoms layer. Therefore, the particle synthesis is really important in order to achieve interesting properties in the plastic compounds developed.
The right graphene and nanographite processing is also essential and one of AIMPLAS’ tasks in this process has consisted in the development of graphene nanocompounds and masterbatch to be used in injection, extrusion and additive manufacturing processes. For this purpose, the processing conditions have been optimised in each one of the manufacturing stages, with the collaboration of multinational companies, such as ROCHLING, PHILIPS or LEGO, who have developed parts for sectors such as toys, electrical- electronic and automotive industries. AIMPLAS has also developed materials for the new manufacturing technologies: rods for 3D printing and powder for laser sintering.
The project, funded within the Seventh Framework Programme with project number 2011-6 under grant agreement number 285718, has involved the participation of multi-disciplinary partners covering all the value chain: LEGO, PHILIPS, ROCHLING, PROMOLDING, VOLUM-E, CREATE IT REAL, LATI, IMERYS graphite and carbon, AVANZARE, DTI, NETCOMPOSITES, OTI and IOM.