A UTS (University of Technology, Sydney) research team recently created strong graphene paper from graphite with a tensile strength ten times greater than that of steel. It is also six times lighter, two times harder, and exhibited thirteen times more resistance to bending than steel, and of course, it does not rust.
Graphene is a material consisting of carbon nanotubes which has very unique property combinations which composite materials do not, such as malleability, exceptional thermal and electrical conductivity, high strength, the ability to be rigid as well, very light weight, and the material required to construct it is not rare. Nothing on the planet has ever even come remotely close to these exceptional characteristic combinations.
The lead researcher Ali Reza Ranjbartoreh said: “No one else has used a similar production and heat testing method to find and carry out such exceptional mechanical properties for graphene paper. We are definitely well ahead of other research societies.”
Ali Reza Ranjbartoreh also added: “The exceptional mechanical properties of synthesised GP render it a promising material for commercial and engineering applications. Not only is it lighter, stronger, harder and more flexible than steel it is also a recyclable and sustainable manufacturable product that is eco-friendly and cost effective in its use.”
There are many implications of such a technological advancement. If affordable, it can:
- Make significantly stronger, very efficient, more environmentally sound, and lighter vehicles, from economy cars, to trains, buses, ships, and passenger jets.
- Extend the range and performance of electric vehicles due to its light weight, and reduce the required battery capacity due to less weight, because less weight requires less power, and power is provided by the batteries.
- Make much stronger, lighter, and more efficient wind turbine blade designs possible. Blades could bend instead of break. It would be able to prevent damage to wind turbine blades caused by lightning strikes. Wind turbine blades are normally constructed with composite non-metals which do not conduct electricity well and therefore cannot safely channel lightning into the ground. When lightning strikes a composite wind turbine blade, the temperature of the air inside it can increase 30,000 degrees Celsius, causing it to expand rapidly (explode). The blades are equipped with lightning receptors at the tip which channel the current into the ground, and this is helpful, but not always enough. Like lightning rods, wind turbines need to be designed so that they attract lightning to conductive materials such as metals that channel them into the ground. In other words, they divert them into the ground so they don’t reach sensitive components, because electricity follows the path of least resistance.
- All portable devices such as notebook computers, tablet PCs, cellphones, music players, could be stronger while still being lightweight.
Another key advantage of this material is that it is recyclable.
Australian mines happen to contain a large amount of graphite, meaning that the widespread use of such a material in the future could be very beneficial to Australia. This industry is likely to grow in the foreseeable future as it strides up a long path to becoming mainstream.
Mr Ranjbartoreh said that the results of this project promise significant benefits to the use of this material in the aviation and automotive industries.
Images via University of Technology Sydney
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