Out of this world 3D printed graphene
BC professor investigates graphene-polymer satellite shields Metal Tech News Weekly Edition – June 10, 2020
Last updated 6/27/2020 at 6:33am
Incredibly strong, lightweight, and conductive, it was only a matter of time the out-of-this-world properties of graphene were considered for use by the aerospace industry. Now, University of British Columbia Professor Mohammad Arjmand and his team are embarking on a research project to develop 3D printed graphene-polymer nanocomposites to shield the electronics aboard satellites from the electromagnetic radiation in space.
Earth's magnetic shield deflects most of the charged particles being emanated by the Sun but satellites outside the field are not afforded that protection from electromagnetic interference of electronics.
Traditionally, metal sheeting, screen, or foam with copper, brass, nickel, silver, steel, and tin are used to shield the sensitive electronic equipment aboard satellites. The effectiveness of the shielding depends on the structure and metal used.
3D printed graphene-polymer nanocomposites promise several advantages over metal shields. Graphene, a nanomaterial made up of a single-atom-thick layer of carbon, happens to be the most conductive and strongest material known. Adding this 2D material to a 3D printing polymer could create a superior electromagnetic shielding that also happens to be resistant to corrosion, lightweight, and easy to design and produce – the ideal material for use on satellites and space exploration ships and vehicles.
Arjmand's research into 3D printed graphene polymer shielding is being bolstered by a C$200,000 Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security grant awarded by Canada's Department of National Defence.
Zen Graphene Solutions Ltd., a Canadian company focused on the development of graphene-based nanomaterial products and applications, will be providing Arjmand's team with materials from its Albany graphite project in Ontario, which hosts graphite well-suited to be exfoliated to graphene.
Zen's technical team will also be available for consultation on the research.
"We are happy to see the Department of National Defence investing in graphene-based technologies with the UBCO (University of British Columbia – Okanagan) team led by Professor Arjmand and Zen," said Zen Graphene Solutions CEO Francis Dubé.
Arjmand and his Nanomaterials and Polymer Nanocomposites Laboratory (NPNL) was awarded two additional grants that will be used to buy equipment that will help convert Albany graphite into graphene polymers.
The Canada Foundation for Innovation John R. Evans Leaders Fund and the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund awarded a grant of C$320,000 that will allow Arjmand to acquire the necessary equipment for the synthesis and characterization of graphene and its polymer nanocomposites. The professor was also awarded C$101,224 from the NSERC Research Tools and Instruments Grant Program with support from the UBC School of Engineering. These funds will be used to purchase a state-of-the-art extruder to develop polymer nanocomposite filaments and pellets.
In addition to its out-of-this-world potential, the graphene-based shielding being researched by Arjmand and his team have many down-to-Earth applications. The growing number of electronic devices we use every day utilize shielding that prevent the electromagnetic radiation from one component from interfering with others. The information technology, medical, automotive, defense, and aerospace sectors all have potential uses for a lightweight and highly effective electromagnetic shield 3D printed from a graphene polymer.
"Our expertise in the synthesis of graphene, polymer processing, 3D printing, and polymer nanocomposites allows us to develop the next generation of high-performance multifunctional polymer nanocomposites with unique properties and complex geometries," said Arjmand. "We look forward to continuing to work with Zen Graphene to bring these next generation products to market."