Graphene was first isolated in 2004 by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester, when they were using a roll of scotch tape to polish a large block of graphite. The tape picked up layers of thin flakes, which were eventually reduced down to create graphene. This discovery earned Geim and Novoselov the Nobel Prize in Physics.
Graphene research has continued at the University of Manchester since this discovery, including looking at how the hexagonal atomic bonds of the substance make it impermeable for nearly all gasses and liquids, with water molecules being one exception. This led to studies into the use of graphene for water filtration and purification.
Aside from water filtration, graphene has also been considered for composite and coating use for oil and gas applications. Polymer chemistry expert, Professor Peter Budd of the University of Manchester visited TWI in 2014 to deliver a talk on polymer-graphene composites, which was linked to a PhD partnership project to assess PA11-graphene composites and coatings and optimise their use for the oil and gas industry.
Manchester University student, Thomas Raine worked with colleagues Professor Budd, Professor Ian Kinloch and Dr Oana Istrate alongside Dr Bernadette Craster of TWI on the PhD project to investigate improved barrier performance for polymer-graphene composites.
The study looked into the use of graphene / polyamide laminates for supercritical CO2 and H2S barrier protection, comparing graphene nanoplatelet (GNP) paper sandwiched between two discs of polyamide 11 (PA11) with sandwich structures using melt-processed GNP/PA11 composites, and chemical vapour deposition (CVD) monolayer graphene transferred onto PA11. These three materials were then tested as a barrier for a feed mixture of carbon dioxide (CO2) with 1.48% hydrogen sulphide (H2S) at 60◦C under pressures up to 400 bar.
The study found that the GNP/PA11 laminates produced a superior barrier performance as compared to the other GNP and graphene-containing barrier materials that were tested. The GNP laminate was found to reduce apparent CO2 permeability by more than an order of magnitude as well as reducing H2S permeability to undetectable levels for all pressures up to 40 MPa.
While further work is set to be undertaken to explore the effects of GNP papers of varying thicknesses and investigate alternative methods for processing GNPs into barrier films, the results of this study have just been published and you can read the full PhD paper here.
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