Functionalized graphene sheets for polymer nanocomposites


Polymer-based composites were heralded in the 1960s as a new paradigm for materials. By dispersing strong, highly stiff fibres in a polymer matrix, high-performance lightweight composites could be developed and tailored to individual applications1. Today we stand at a similar threshold in the realm of polymer nanocomposites with the promise of strong, durable, multifunctional materials with low nanofiller content2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11. However, the cost of nanoparticles, their availability and the challenges that remain to achieve good dispersion pose significant obstacles to these goals. Here, we report the creation of polymer nanocomposites with functionalized graphene sheets, which overcome these obstacles and provide superb polymer–particle interactions. An unprecedented shift in glass transition temperature of over 40 °C is obtained for poly(acrylonitrile) at 1 wt% functionalized graphene sheet, and with only 0.05 wt% functionalized graphene sheet in poly(methyl methacrylate) there is an improvement of nearly 30 °C. Modulus, ultimate strength and thermal stability follow a similar trend, with values for functionalized graphene sheet– poly(methyl methacrylate) rivaling those for single-walled carbon nanotube–poly(methyl methacrylate) composites.

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Figure 1: Microscopy images showing the wrinkled nature of functionalized graphene sheets.
Figure 2: Property improvements for 1 wt% nanoparticle–PMMA composites and microscopy revealing nanoparticle–polymer interaction.
Figure 3: Percent increment in Tg for FGS–PMMA, EG–PMMA and SWNT–PMMA nanocomposites (averages of five samples each; error bars for standard deviation are shown) compared to best available data for similar carbon-based nanofilled polymers (see Supplementary Information, Table S2).


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We thank M. J. McAllister and D.L. Milius for technical assistance and helpful discussions, and A. Tamashausky of Asbury Carbons for providing the graphite used. Financial support from the NASA University Research, Engineering, and Technology Institute on BioInspired Materials (BIMat) under Award No. NCC-1-02037 is greatly appreciated; additional support from the NSF was provided to I.A.A., R.S.R. and to L.C.B. and S.T.N. through the NSF-MRSEC and NIRT program.

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Correspondence to L. C. Brinson.

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Competing interests

I.A.A. and R.K.P. are stockholders of Vorbeck Materials Corporation, which is now producing functionalized graphene sheets under the trade name Vor-x. However, all materials used in this study were prepared in our laboratories.

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Ramanathan, T., Abdala, A., Stankovich, S. et al. Functionalized graphene sheets for polymer nanocomposites. Nature Nanotech 3, 327–331 (2008).

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