Graphene is helping make stronger, lighter and greener aircrafts

Boasting an array of extraordinary mechanical strength, electrical conductivity and thermal properties, the graphene composite is already paving the way for a much stronger aerospace industry.

At FGV Cambridge Nanosystems, we have invested heavily in R&D facilities where our scientists are creating the next generation of graphene infused aerospace composites, electronics and conductive coatings. For example, graphene can contribute to creating stronger but lighter materials allowing to make larger jets that fit more passengers and run on much less fuel. Rising fuel costs and the risk of emissions trading schemes have both been targeted as key threats to the aviation market, and graphene proposes to address them both.

Graphene is also a perfect material for aviation electronics, where graphene’s flexibility can contribute to the creation of flexible and lightweight electronic displays and in-flight entertainment suites. Furthermore, graphene can be used to simplify the tangle of conventional aircraft wiring, which currently uses up to 60 miles of copper wiring to transmit power and communication.

Graphene infused conductive coatings can also de-ice an aircraft quickly and cheaply. Currently, the task of de-icing an aircraft is expensive, difficult and takes a long time, where a team of airport staff have to spray the wings of the plane with a hot liquid, either propylene glycol or ethylene glycol to melt the ice.

We are making some bold steps in the world of making planes more efficient and reducing CO2 emissions in collaboration with some the household in the aviation industry. We are also a consortium partner in an EU Horizon 2020 PlasCarb project, which transform biogas generated by anaerobic digestion of food waste using an innovative low energy microwave plasma process to split biogas (methane) into high value graphitic carbon and hydrogen.

The graphene production at FGV Cambridge Nanosystems is unique, in that we produce graphene in a bottom up process, directly from methane, in an efficient, one step process. This cost effective process allows the highest quality graphene to be produced, and is repeatable so the quality remains the same, day in and day out. Methane is a greenhouse gas, and often flared from factories. We are therefore able to use this environmentally harmful greenhouse gas to produce a highly valuable material. Taking this one step further, biogas can also be used as the feedstock to our reactors, further offsetting our environmental footprint to produce these materials. Biogas can be produced from food waste, and when you consider that over 126 million tonnes of food waste is produced each year in the EU alone, the large scale at which we can efficiently produce graphene becomes apparent.

By Anna Mieczakowski

Jul, 01, 2016