Maria Iliut: Graphene-enhanced elastomers and their applications

posted 27 May 2019, 08:22 by info admin
Grafine Ltd, University of Manchester, UK

Elastomers, particularly natural rubber, are widely used in applications such as tires, gloves, clothing, medical devices, etc. We demonstrate that the mechanical properties of elastomers can be improved by the incorporation of graphene fillers. Elastomers are compounded either an aqueous formulation called a latex, or as a solid. In order to maximise the impact on mechanical properties by the addition of a small volume fraction of graphene, it is essential to ensure uniform dispersion of the graphene flakes in the elastomer matrix. Upon optimisation, it is possible to improve an elastomer by making it simultaneously 50% stronger, 50% more elastic and 50% more hard wearing. 
A graphene-modified elastomer can then be formed into a number of shapes using, most popularly, dip-moulding of latex or compression moulding of solid rubber. I will discuss the fabrication and testing of dip-moulded elastomer-graphene composite products such as condoms and gloves, as well as compression moulded products such as shoe soles.  
I will present the specific case of athletic footwear, where the rubber-graphene composite gives markedly improved grip on tough terrains while simultaneously improving durability. The graphene-enhanced athletic shoes from Inov-8 Ltd. have been available for purchase, worldwide, since July 2018. I will also talk about the future potential of graphene-enhanced elastomers, and a new spin-out company Grafine Ltd. for this purpose. 

Dr. Maria Iliut is the founder and CTO of Grafine Ltd. and a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Manchester, in the Nano-functional Materials Group. Maria was awarded a PhD (2013), MSc (2010) and BSc (2008) from Babeș-Bolyai University, Romania. Her research involves the development of graphene-enhanced polymer composites and their applications. She has published over 20 papers in international peer-reviewed journals.