24 April 2023

Can the 2D material graphene increase the durability of natural fibers? LiU researchers will now study this in collaboration with a number of actors. The project has been awarded SEK 2.66 millions from Vinnova, the Swedish Energy Agency and Formas, through SIO Grafen - a national strategic innovation programme.

Group of researchers, entreprenours and others by meeting table.
Scientists, entreprenours, and representants for IMA in a meeting at LiU, about the graphene project.

Linköping University together with the Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE), Grafren, Trifilon, X Shore and Innovative Materials Arena have initiated the project Going Green with Graphene (G3).

Male scientist in discussion at a meeting.Mohamed Sahbi Loukil. Photo credit Ulrik Svedin The project has been awarded SEK 2.66 million from Vinnova, the Swedish Energy Agency and Formas, through SIO Grafen - a national strategic innovation programme.

- We are really happy to have been awarded this funding. It enables an exciting project that can change the composites industry. Graphene as a material has the potential to be a game changer, paving the way for green composites on the market, says Mohamed Loukil, senior associate professor at Linköping University and coordinator of the project.

Going Green with Graphene aims to create next-generation composites, based on graphene-coated natural fibers.

Composite materials (synthetic fibers) function as a good lightweight component, replacing heavy metal parts in diverse applications. But they are still not the best alternative for the environment due to high CO2 emissions during production.

- Natural fibers, such as hemp or flax (linen), on the other hand, are CO2-negative. They bind CO2 during their growth. However, these types of fibers are not entirely useful due to their sensitivity to moisture and their low strength.

Graphene is a material that can be laid very thin on a surface and at the same time retain excellent mechanical and barrier properties. Increasing the performance of natural fibers and protecting them from the environment with a coating of graphene, could reduce the use of synthetic fibers in composites.

- We perform graphene coating on the nanoscale, wrapping each individual fiber. This project has the potential to impact a wide range of the goals of Agenda 2030, primarily because it promotes increased use of natural fibers in applications where these have not previously met the requirements, says Erik Khranovskyy, CEO and founder of Grafren.

The project will be performed by a team covering the whole value chain: A natural fiber supplier, a graphene coating provider, a composite material manufacturer,
characterisation experts, as well as the composite end user.

- The composition of the project group, and the close connection between them ensures that all development topics are on the table, says Christer Karlsson, material expert at Innovative Materials Arena, IMA.

- The discussions in the team are good from the very beginning. We come from different directions but all have a great interest in producing light, durable materials with high performance, says Erik Ohlsson from X Shore, a company that develops boats powered by electric motors.

IMA is a cluster that supports networks, companies and entrepreneurship within the materials area.

- Graphene is a very interesting material that needs to be studied more. It has great potential to become very useful. The hope is to be able to replace carbon fiber in the future, says Kenneth Karlsson, cluster leader for IMA.

The project Going Green with Graphene, with a total budget over 5 million SEK, is funded by Vinnova, the Swedish Energy Agency and Formas, through a national strategic innovation programme SIO Grafen.

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