Evaluating graphene-enhanced materials for space-based structural applications

Walsh, Robert William orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-1025-9863, Watkinson, Benjamin Jon, Ansell, Darren orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2818-3315, Beggs, Billy and Hansen, P. (2018) Evaluating graphene-enhanced materials for space-based structural applications. In: 69th International Astronautical Congress: #InvolvingEveryone, IAC 2018;, 1 - 5 October 2018, Bremen, Germany.

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Since 2015, the University of Central Lancashire has helped accelerate the application of graphene-enhanced (GE) materials in the UK aerospace industry. Building upon this experience, research funded by the UK Space Agency is presented here to demonstrate the potential of employing GE materials for space-based structures. Results from a series of high altitude (up to 35km) balloon launches outline a low-cost, low-risk stepping stone to examine the possible impact on GE material following exposure to near-space or the stratosphere. Two different payload materials were investigated; (i) graphene-enhanced carbon fibre (GECF) and (ii) 3D printed graphene-enhanced polylactic acid (GEPLA) where each is compared directly to their non-graphene equivalents. Comparative mechanical analysis pre- and post-flight were undertaken. The results provide initial confidence that the GE samples appear to be unaffected by experiencing the low pressure, low temperature environment. The GECF samples have a reduction in mass up to 20% with observably similar (or improved) mechanical properties. Though the GEPLA samples are slightly heavier (about 10%), they are more flexible than the PLA also under investigation. With the potential of significant weight reduction for similar payload volumes alongside increased structural robustness, these initial investigations indicate that GE materials warrant further investigation for a range of possible space-based applications. Copyright © 2018 by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF). All rights reserved

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