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New possibilities with graphene in electric vehicles

12 May, 2022

Compared with purely metallic materials, the properties of metal composites reinforced with graphene are significantly improved. This has been demonstrated by Addit-G, a larger research project recently completed by Swerim, Graphmatech, Quintus Technologies, Sandvik Additive Manufacturing and Uppsala University.  

There is a pressing demand for complex components with first-class thermal and mechanical properties in the transport sector, particularly with respect to battery thermal management systems for batteries in electric vehicles. Here, the attractive properties of graphene and the possibilities for integrating these properties into other materials may be a means of meeting challenges associated with next-generation components. 

In the Addit-G project, Swerim, Graphmatech, Quintus Technologies, Sandvik Additive Manufacturing and Uppsala University have demonstrated that metal composites with graphene manufactured from powder raw material achieve considerably better material properties compared with purely metallic materials. 

"The market for metal powders used in additive manufacturing is growing by more than 20 percent annually and is forecast to reach 15–20 billion Swedish kronor by 2025," explains Irma Heikkilä, project manager at Swerim.

Improved material properties

The aim of the project has been to improve the thermal and mechanical properties of alloys of copper and aluminium. The studied materials were functionalized graphene integrated to Cu and AlSi10Mg matrices. The additive manufacturing technology Fused Deposition Modelling and subsequent process stages have been applied. 

"The outcomes show that the developed hybrid material, with graphene and copper, achieved a more than 50 percent improvement in hardness, strength and ductility. The thermal properties also showed an improvement of more than 15 percent after the addition of graphene to the material," explains Irma Heikkilä.

Work continues

Due to major delays in deliveries of raw materials and restrictions during the pandemic, development of the aluminium composites with graphene did not fully reach the target. The improved material properties of the materials are, however, still deemed to be of commercial interest.

"This method also opens possibilities for many positive attributes for end users, such as the potential for lighter structures with improved product characteristics," concludes Irma Heikkilä.