22 Microns of Graphene Oxide is chemically extracted.
Carbon fiber is a material that is used in a host of applications across many industries. It’s demand and popularity is due to its strength and lightweight characteristics.
Graphene has been touted as a ‘wonder material’ and there has been a lot of research and development into the applications that graphene could be used for. Made up of a one atom thick layer of graphite, graphene could potentially be used in a host of applications due to it’s durability and high conductivity.
Researchers at Rice University in Texas have developed a stronger carbon fiber by combining graphene oxide flakes.
Creating two types of fibers, researchers at Rice University use an environmentally friendly chemical extraction process; a unique process that is patented to the university, to remove graphene flakes from graphite.
The first type consisted of flakes with an average diameter of around 22 microns, which is a huge difference in comparison with the petroleum-based pitch that is commonly used in carbon fiber.
“The pitch particles are two nanometers in size, which makes our flakes about ten thousand times larger,” said Rice graduate student, and lead author, Changsheng Xiang.
Under the 'knot' test the graphene enabled carbon fiber has a "100% efficiency"
Testing the fiber is done through assessing the strength of its knots. Common fibers tend to snap under tension however; this new carbon fiber demonstrated ”100 percent knot efficiency”.
However, when the fiber is heated to about 2,100 degrees Celsius, the ‘knot’ strength is reduced but should improve the fiber’s tensile strength making it useful for composites.
With carbon fiber being used in a host of commercial products, this type of carbon fiber wouldn’t be applicable however; researchers produced a second fiber using 9-micron flakes instead of 22.
By comparison, the smaller graphene flakes were pulled from the wet-spinning process under tension enabling, the fiber to have a strength to that of commercial products at room temperature.
Using an environmentally friendly process to create a stronger carbon fiber is an innovation that ticks all the boxes. Ensuring that this new carbon fiber can maintain it’s ultra light characteristics is important but creating a process whereby, it can be stronger and more flexible is something that could benefit a host of different industries.
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Image Credit: Rice University
Further Reading: Rice University