The objective of this grant is to elucidate the fundamental mechanisms that are responsible for the suppression of wear in graphene-polymer composites. Our goal in this project is to develop an in-depth understanding of the enhanced ability of graphene additives to resist wear in polymers. Graphene is interesting from the point of view of wear suppression since it has in-plane sheet dimensions of the order of several microns coupled with nanometer scale sheet thickness. The microscale dimensions of the graphene sheets enables it to effectively interfere with debris generation processes in polymers, while the nanometer scale thickness, low density and planer sheet geometry of graphene enables a huge interfacial contact area with very large number density of graphene platelets in the matrix. Moreover, the sliding of individual graphene planes within graphene platelets is expected to enhance the lubrication effect and reduce the friction levels in addition to the material wear rates.
If successful, the proposed work will provide the fundamental understanding necessary to enable the rational design of wear-resistant graphene polymer composites. The excellent wear suppression ability of graphene fillers coupled with their potentially low production cost makes this technology very promising for industrial applications. Such composites offering reduced friction and wear have a wide range of applications in the aerospace, medical, chemical, automotive and electronics industries. Outreach activities include demonstrations to students from New York State's New Visions high school program. This will help to popularize science and to attract underrepresented groups to careers in science and engineering.