Rubber materials are used in countless applications worldwide, from the largest truck tires to the tiniest gaskets and seals. Consequently, the global annual production of rubbers exceeds several million metric tons. In many of the application areas, rubber materials are the most easily replaced parts. While a car engine is expected to run for several thousand kilometers without damage, the rubber seals are never expected to last as long.
This is also the case with tires – no one finds it strange that the tires need replacing more often than the rims. Improving the properties of rubber materials can therefore have significant impact on the service life of all rubber components and enhancing their performance.
Is graphene something that can facilitate this improvement? – We think so! And here is why:
1. Improved chemical and UV resistance
Graphene has a large surface area, is chemically and UV-stable and impermeable to molecules. When incorporated in rubber materials at very low concentrations, the composite material will have increased chemical and UV resistance and can significantly reduce rubber swelling when operating in oil, water or other liquid systems.
2. Enhanced static and dynamic mechanical properties
Rubber materials find many uses where their elasticity is key to achieving good results. Upon addition of graphene, the storage modulus can be enhanced meaning that a greater amount of elastic (reversible deformation) energy can be stored in the material. In addition, the static mechanical properties can be improved, increasing stiffness, hardness and toughness, without reducing the elasticity.
3. Reducing the cost
Most engineering rubber components contain large amounts (up to 50%) of additives like carbon black or ceramic particles to enhance performance. With graphene, the need for so many additives in such high concentrations can be reduced without reducing performance. Summed together, this can result in rubber products that have lower production cost while simultaneously extending their service life.