Writing in the journal Advanced Materials, a team of materials scientists and physicists from the University of Manchester (UK) say graphene has the potential to replace carbon fibers in high performance materials that are used to build aircraft or fuel-efficient vehicles.
Graphene—the discovery of which is attributed to physicists Prof. Andre Geim and Dr. Kostya Novoselov at The University of Manchester—is a two-dimensional layer of carbon atoms that resembles chicken wire.
As well as being an excellent conductor of electrons with the potential to replace silicon, graphene is also one of the stiffest-known materials. A recent study found it to be the strongest material ever measured. This led researchers to investigate its behavior and properties when mixed with other materials.
|“This relatively new material continues to amaze, and its incredible properties could be used to make structural, lightweight components for fuel efficient vehicles and aircraft.”|
|— Dr Ian Kinloch, a researcher in the University of Manchester School of Materials|
The University of Manchester team, which included Dr Novoselov, put a single graphene sheet between two layers of polymer and used a technique called Raman spectroscopy to measure how the carbon bonds responded when the graphene was stretched.
Raman spectroscopy works by shining a laser light onto a molecule and then collecting and analysing the wavelength and intensity of the resulting scattered light.
The technique basically measures bond vibration between atoms. As researchers stretch the bond the vibration changes frequency. It can be compared to tuning a guitar string and hearing the pitch change.
Researchers were able to use Raman spectroscopy to look at the change of the vibrational energy of the bond and then worked out the change in bond length. From this information they calculated the improvement in stiffness the graphene gave to the polymer composite.
We have found the theories developed for large materials still hold even when a material is just one atom thick. We can now start to use the decades of research into traditional carbon fibre composites to design the next generation of graphene-based materials.
—Professor Robert Young of the School of Materials
Lei Gong, Ian A. Kinloch, Robert J. Young, Ibtsam Riaz, Rashid Jalil, Konstantin S. Novoselov (2010) Interfacial Stress Transfer in a Graphene Monolayer Nanocomposite (p NA) Advanced Materials doi: 10.1002/adma.200904264