Michigan State University is touting a start-up company that is commercialing a material developed by researchers from the school's Composite Materials and Structure Center. The material, -- xGnP Exfoliated Graphite NanoPlatelets -- can make "plastic stiffer, lighter and stronger and could result in more fuel-efficient airplanes and cars as well as more durable medical and sports equipment." The company is XG Sciences Inc., with offices in East Lansing and a manufacturing plant in Lansing, Mich. The research was led by Lawrence Drzal, a professor of chemical engineering and materials science and director of the composites center. The company claims its technology can make better nanocomposites:
Our nano-particles consist of small stacks of graphene layers that can replace carbon nanotubes, nano-clays, or other carbon compounds in many composite applications. When added in trace amounts to plastics or resins, our nanoparticles make these materials electrically or thermally conductive, and less permeable, while simultaneously improving mechanical properties like strength, stiffness, or surface toughness. For example, when our graphene nanoparticles are added to nylon, the resulting nanocomposite is significantly less permeable to gasoline or other fuels while also dissipating static electricity. This composite is an ideal material for lining fuel tanks.Other applications listed on the company's Web site inlcude electronic enclosures, automotive parts that can be electrostatically, aerospace composites, appliances, batteries and fuel cells. Automotive applications for nanopolymers are especially interesting. These materials are proving that they can help plastics compete with metals in new applications, saving weight and therefore boosting fuel economy.