The School of Engineering at Cardiff University and Haydale have announced new research demonstrating significant improvements in mechanical performance, including impact resistance, in carbon fiber composites. These results could have significant implications for future composite structures development, especially in aerospace.

The research investigated graphene nanoplatelet (GNP) and carbon nanotube (CNT) reinforcement technology. Adding functionalized graphene to neat resin has been shown to double stiffness, but the effect of this in a macrocomposite would normally be expected to be much less.

A resin infusion technique was used to produce composites containing a small percentage of nanomaterials, achieving maximum material improvements. The nanomaterials were surface-treated using a low-temperature, low-energy plasma process, which promotes homogenous dispersion and chemical bonding and avoids the waste streams that traditional functionalization processes produce. The results observed in this research show a 13 percent increase in compression strength and a 50 percent increase in compression after impact performance, indicating that fracture mode has been positively influenced.

“Nano-reinforced composites offer an extremely promising route to harnessing the superior material properties offered by graphene technology, and this research demonstrates the considerable improvements that can be made to composites by utilizing plasma-functionalized nano-carbon materials,” says Ray Gibbs, CEO of Haydale.