A Michigan State University researcher and his students have developed a nanomaterial that makes 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 material – xGnP Exfoliated Graphite NanoPlatelets – will be instrumental in
the development of new and expanded applications in the aerospace, automotive
and packaging industries, said Lawrence Drzal, University Distinguished
Professor of chemical engineering and materials science at MSU and Director of
MSU’s Composite Materials and Structure Center.
Drzal led the research group that developed the product, which is considered to
be a practical, inexpensive material that has a unique set of physical,
chemical and morphological attributes. The nanoscale material, which is
electrically and thermally conductive, has reduced flammability and barrier
properties, he said.
The graphene nanoparticles are being manufactured by a new startup company, XG
Sciences Inc. (www.xgsciences.com), located in mid-Michigan and a spinoff from
intellectual property owned by MSU. XG Sciences has an exclusive license to
manufacture this material.
“XGnP can either be used as an additive
to plastics or by itself it can make a transformational change in the
performance of many advanced electronic and energy devices,” Drzal said. “It
can do so because it’s a nanoparticle with a unique shape made from
environmentally benign carbon, and it can be made at a very reasonable
The key to the new material’s capabilities is a fast and inexpensive process
for separating layers of graphite (graphene) into stacks less than 10 nanometers
in thickness but with lateral dimensions anywhere from 500 nm to tens of
microns, coupled with the ability to tailor the particle surface chemistry to
make it compatible with water, resin or plastic systems.
Applications of xGnP could be used to make lighter, more fuel-efficient
aircraft and car parts, and stronger wind turbines, medical implants and sports
equipment. The product is a good electrical conductor attractive for lithium
ion batteries and could be used to make transparent conductive coatings for
solar cells and displays. It can also make gasoline tanks lightweight and leak
tight and plastic containers that keep food fresh for
Drzal and his partners (former students Hiroyuki Fukushima, Inhwan Do and XG
Sciences CEO Mike Knox) are already looking ahead to more uses for the product
– like recyclable, economical or lightweight units to store hydrogen for the
next generation of fuel cell-powered autos.
“Now that we know how to make this material and how to modify it so that it can
be utilized in plastics,” he said, “our attention is being directed to high-end
applications where we can really make some substantial changes in the way
electronics, fuel cells, batteries and solar cells perform as a result of using
“As an engineer we do research with an eye on not only understanding the
fundamentals of how things work, but also on coming up with solutions to solve
important problems facing the world we live in,” Drzal said.
“This project goes beyond doing research and publishing papers. It appears to
have made the transition from a laboratory curiosity to a commercial product
and simultaneously has helped create a
spinoff company to increase the economic viability of Michigan.”
For more information, visit www.xgsciences.com.
Reprinted with permission from MSU.