Due to their high specific strength, carbon and glass fiber reinforced composites find wide applications as lightweight and high strength materials, for aerospace and automotive applications. However, these composite materials are extremely sensitive to relatively low velocity, and localized impact loads leading to damage in the through thickness direction. The mechanical damage induces delamination (separation cracks) at the boundary between plies. Delamination due to crack growth is one of the most prevalent life-limiting factors of a composite. To overcome this problem, graphene oxide (GO), polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxanes (POSS) and hybridized GO-POSS nanoparticles were introduced in the interlaminar region of carbon fiber–epoxy composites. Nano-additive compositions ranged from 0-0.7% by weight of the composite to study the degree of enhancement these additives have on fracture toughness. A range of improvement in mode I interlaminar fracture toughness (GIC) of specimens ranged from 70% to over 100% depending on the level of addition. Two patents issued to our lab were subsequently licensed to an Oklahoma State student start-up MITO Material Solutions for commercialization. Our research group worked with the start-up who subsequently received ~$1.5 million in research funding and $1.6 million in investment dollars. The start-up has developed a graphene functionalization technique allowing them to make hybrid polymer modifiers for use in industries such as aerospace and automotive. Their initial offering of hybridized Graphene Oxide and an Epoxide POSS (named “E-GO”) allows fiber reinforced thermoset and thermoplastic consumers to boost product performance anywhere between 20-135% beyond normal performance, allowing increased part durability and weight to be shed.
Dr. Ranji Vaidyanathan is Varnadow chaired professor of materials science and engineering in the school of materials science and engineering at Oklahoma State University, with several years of entrepreneurial and product development in the composites and additive manufacturing areas. Ranji received his B.Tech. in Metallurgical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Varanasi, an MS in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina A&T State University and a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from North Carolina State University. Ranji has published over 60 peer-reviewed articles, two book chapters, over 90 conference proceedings and holds 23 patents, four of which have been licensed. His awards include an R&D 100 Award, Induction into the National Academy of Inventors, and was a member of a team winning Oklahoma State University President’s Cup for Creative Interdisciplinarity.