Graphene-latex composites show promise for mechanical applications

Water-borne polymers are products with great application possibilities and substantial commercial value. By introducing graphene derivatives into these materials, a wide variety of novel and interesting composite materials could be synthesized, expanding existing applications and opening new ones.

Water-borne polymers or composites are typically produced through polymerization in dispersed systems. Currently, polymerization techniques in dispersed systems are a significant part of the polymerization industry due to the important advantages they offer in terms of environmental friendliness (attributed to the aqueous continuous phase). The key challenges to address when adding graphene to achieve advanced polymer composites are compatibility and dispersion throughout the composites.

The goal of project GO4LATEX has been to obtain graphene with exceptional properties and translate it into a polymeric matrix while preserving these exceptional properties to form engineered structures in the final composites. The environmentally friendly procedures used in the project offer specific advantages, including the preparation of stable hybrid aqueous dispersions, coverage of a wide range of polymeric systems for different composite preparations, and control of graphene alignment in the polymer matrix to enhance interaction.

As a result of the project, highly stable and well-dispersed graphene-latex composites were obtained. This led to significantly improved mechanical properties, with composites showing a 150% increase in modulus for soft polymers and a 170% increase in elongation at break for brittle polymers.

The “GO4LATEX: Development of low environmental impact polymers based on graphene” project, ZL-2023/00285, has been supported by the Basque Government through Hazitek and co-financed by the European Union through the European Regional Fund (ERDF).