Partnership to move new plastics forward

Paul Mayne // Western NewsMechanical and Materials professor Takashi Kuboki is part of a collaborative research project with a northern Ontario-based mining company to look at developing an enhanced polymer composite with potential benefits to the automotive and aerospace industries.

A Western Engineering professor’s work in developing an advanced plastic could soon have the attention of the automotive and aerospace industries for its potential benefits to manufacturing upgrades.

Mechanical and Materials professor Takashi Kuboki recently began a collaborative research project with northern Ontario-based mining company Zenyatta Ventures Ltd. to develop a polymer composite using graphene, derived from a recently unearthed deposit near Hearst, Ont.

“It is a high-purity graphite, and a huge amount they found,” said Kuboki, who will test the carbon by combining it with existing plastics to test its potential. “I’ll be looking to determine the chemical properties of the new product. We want to know how much we can improve these chemical properties. Hopefully, there will be large enough improvement that could possibly change how things can be made in areas like the automotive industry.”

The difference between this and other graphene is its high purity, he added, which has already been determined to improve compressive and tensile strength of concrete and enhanced rubber composites. Kuboki’s latest advanced nanomaterial research project is receiving funding from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada Engage Grant program.

During the research and testing project, Kuboki will manufacture injection molded plastic using the graphene as an additive. Many industries, including aerospace, automotive and even construction, are striving to adopt new technology components made from plastics or polymer composites to reduce weight, improve fuel efficiency and maintain strength.

“Also, graphene enhanced electrical properties of composites may protect against electrostatic discharge (lightning) while increased thermal properties are important for dissipating high temperatures,” said Kuboki, noting early testing has returned good results.

“We know the potential is there, so it’s really up to us how much we can improve this, get it light weight in comparison to the metal, but an even stronger product. We want to show it but, with research, you never know. There is huge potential.”

Kuboki hopes to have preliminary results of his latest research by spring.