Monday, June 26, 2017

News: AMRC to help commercialise graphene use in composites

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Experts at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing are set to work on commercialising a new, proprietary technology for applying the "wonder metal" graphene to critical composite structures in sectors such as aerospace.

Redcar-based Applied Graphene Materials, a leading innovator in the manufacture and application of graphene, has signed a Joint Development Agreement (JDA) with the AMRC, which has a £4.5m state-of-the-art centre supporting the development of advanced composite materials inside the Factory of the Future on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham. The centre works with complex hybrid components and systems, which require manufacturing expertise in both composite and metallic structures.

Graphene is light, 200 times stronger than steel, but it is incredibly flexible. It is the thinnest material possible as well as being transparent. Applied Graphene Materials has registered a patent having developed a highly innovative, new technology it calls Structural Ink which comprises the deposition of graphene nanoplatelets directly onto composite laminates in a controlled and targeted manner.

The agreement will focus on the development and commercial exploitation of Structural Ink technology, through collaboration projects with AMRC's industry partners. AMRC members include leading names in the aerospace sector such as Airbus, GKN and Rolls-Royce. Another member, automotive manufacturer, McLaren, continues to focus on carbon fibre in its supercars and is investing £50m in a Composites Technology Centre in Rotherham.

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By adopting Structural Ink technology, end users will have the ability to increase mechanical toughness, which can be derived through the addition of graphene. Application to specific areas will enable the optimisation of the performance and structural design of composite materials. Ultimately this will improve component integrity and performance, enable further weight reduction and also reduce total manufacturing costs.

At an early phase in the development cycle, AGM plans to locate a technology demonstration cell within the AMRC's Composites Centre.

Richard Scaife, manager of the AMRC Composites Centre, said: "Over the last 24 months, our research staff and engineers have been collaborating with Applied Graphene Materials on its Structural Ink technology development and we are delighted that we are now able to progress to a formal, long term agreement.

"While this technology is still relatively immature in aerospace terms, we believe it highlights significant potential for performance improvements with both weight and cost savings to those designing critical composite structures. In the near future we will be sharing information on this technology with our aerospace partners, but also see the potential for early adoption with partners operating in less safety critical industrial sectors."

Jon Mabbitt, chief executive officer of Applied Graphene Materials, added: "We are very excited about the opportunity that Structural Ink opens up for AGM and our customers. Whilst we continue to collaborate with customers on developing tailored graphene dispersions for a range of applications, this printing technology offers AGM another route to market and a tried and tested product offer that we believe will be very compelling for composites end users."

Last year, innovative Rotherham company, Metalysis, which recently opened a new centre on the AMP, reported that it had successfully synthesised graphene using its innovative electrochemical process. While graphene is traditionally known to incur high costs of production, Metalysis is able to produce the largely industrially inaccessible material at no additional production cost to its conventional operations.

Applied Graphene Materials website
AMRC website
Metalysis website

Images: Applied Graphene Materials


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