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ORNL team demonstrates first large-scale graphene composite fabrication

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have fabricated polymer composites containing 2-inch-by-2-inch sheets of graphene using chemical vapor deposition. The resulting composite structures have the potential to outperform the current state-of-the-art composite materials in both mechanical properties and electrical conductivities (>8 S/cm with only 0.13% volumetric graphene loading and 5 × 103 S/cm for pure graphene fibers) with estimated graphene contributions of >10 GPa in strength and 1 TPa in stiffness.

While graphene has enormous commercial potential, it has been impractical to employ on a large scale, with researchers limited to using small flakes of the material. The ORNL findings, reported in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, could enable large-scale fabrication of graphene composites.

Before our work, superb mechanical properties of graphene were shown at a micro scale. We have extended this to a larger scale, which considerably extends the potential applications and market for graphene.

— Ivan Vlassiouk, ORNL team leader

While most approaches for polymer nanocomposition construction employ tiny flakes of graphene or other carbon nanomaterials that are difficult to disperse in the polymer, Vlassiouk’s team used larger sheets of graphene. This eliminates the flake dispersion and agglomeration problems and allows the material to better conduct electricity with less actual graphene in the polymer.

In our case, we were able to use chemical vapor deposition to make a nanocomposite laminate that is electrically conductive with graphene loading that is 50 times less compared to current state-of-the-art samples.

—Ivan Vlassiouk

If Vlassiouk and his team can reduce the cost and demonstrate scalability, researchers envision graphene being used in aerospace (structural monitoring, flame-retardants, anti-icing, conductive); the automotive sector (catalysts, wear-resistant coatings); structural applications (self-cleaning coatings, temperature control materials); electronics (displays, printed electronics, thermal management); energy (photovoltaics, filtration, energy storage); and manufacturing (catalysts, barrier coatings, filtration).

The research was supported by ORNL’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program. A portion of the work was conducted at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, a DOE Office of Science User Facility.


  • Ivan Vlassiouk, Georgios Polizos, Ryan Cooper, Ilia Ivanov, Jong Kahk Keum, Felix Paulauskas, Panos Datskos, and Sergei Smirnov (2015) “Strong and Electrically Conductive Graphene-Based Composite Fibers and Laminates” ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces doi: 10.1021/acsami.5b01367


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