Graphene in elastomers

Elastomers are used throughout industry, in applications ranging from hoses, seals, gaskets and O-rings, to anti-vibration mountings, belts and wear-linings.

Elastomeric materials are generally characterised as either:

  • Thermoset elastomers, which are normally cured or vulcanised to harden them to the required shape; once moulded they cannot subsequently be reshaped.
  • Thermoplastic elastomers, which can be moulded and then reshaped when exposed to heat and pressure.

Each type of material has distinct properties. Thermosets, for example, are ideal for manufacturing seals and gaskets or used as specialised coatings and sealants, while thermoplastic elastomers are typically used for injection and compression moulding or extrusion processes.

Making elastomers stronger

In each case, it’s possible to make significant improvements to the mechanical properties of elastomers through the addition of graphene products.

Adding a small percentage of graphene – typically less than 1% by volume – to an elastomeric compound such as rubber can:

  • Increase its tensile strength by up to 40%
  • Increase abrasion resistance by up to 500%
  • Improve tear strength by 50%
  • Improve electrical and thermal conductivity
  • Improve fire retardancy

These improvements can dramatically enhance factors such as wear resistance, while extending the operating life of the elastomer.

Graphene productsGraphene enhanced rubber

One of the challenges in enhancing the properties of elastomers such as rubber is the ability for graphene to be dispersed evenly throughout each masterbatch.

We’ve worked closely with a number of customers to address this challenge and after extensive trials have been able to develop manufacturing techniques that enable our PureGRAPH® graphene powder, with its non-aggregated, uniform sized graphene nanoplatelets, to be incorporated evenly and consistently into polyurethane thermosets and thermoplastics.

As a result, we are now supplying our PureGRAPH® graphene products to customers that include Steel Blue, a major global manufacturer of work and safety boots, for graphene-infused thermoplastic polyurethane soles and polyurethane foam innersoles. We are also supplying production volumes – in excess of three tonnes – to newGen, for the manufacture of PU rubber wear linings used in bucket wheels, pipe spools and conveyor applications in the mining industry.

These recent projects highlight the potential for incorporating graphene in elastomers. In each case, graphene is improving the tensile strength and the abrasion and wear resistance of the polyurethane elastomers, while in the case of the Steel Blue boots also enhancing comfort and chemical resistance.

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