Use of graphene-based coatings and composites in sports equipment

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Although the graphene industry has grown significantly, scientists believe it has yet to reach its potential. Graphene has revolutionized the sports industry due to its many unique properties. This article focuses on its association with various sports, such as hockey, skiing, tennis, etc.

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Graphene is an extraordinary material with great physicochemical, electrical, mechanical and thermomechanical properties. This material is considered a promising source for new generation products.

Graphene is an allotrope of carbon that forms when carbon atoms bind together in a two-dimensional honeycomb lattice during sp2 hybridization. Graphene-based materials are developed through a top-down or bottom-up process. Some of the top-down processes include the electrochemical, mechanical, and chemical exfoliation of graphite.

Bottom-up methods include chemical vapor deposition and chemical synthesis. Graphene is known to be the main component of many carbon allotropes such as fullerenes, carbon nanotubes, and graphite. Graphene is considered to be the thinnest and strongest carbon-based nanomaterial.

Properties and application of graphene

Graphene has many other characteristics, such as flexibility, lightness and conductivity. One of the most common methods of using graphene is by developing composites, i.e. adding graphene to other existing products. Graphene-based composites are used in many industries due to their favorable characteristic properties, such as the development of anti-rust coatings.

For example, a combination of graphene in the paint develops a unique coating that prevents rusting. In addition, these graphene-based composites are used to build weatherproof houses or waterproof packaging systems. These materials have also been used in the aerospace industry, for example in the development of aircraft wings.

This not only reduced the weight of the aircraft, but also protected it from the adverse effects of lightning damage and significantly improved fuel efficiency. Graphene-based materials have also been used in wearable technology, agriculture, healthcare, marine, and automotive.

Graphene in sport

Recently, a number of sporting goods, such as helmets, hockey sticks, bicycle frames, skis, and golf clubs, are being made using graphene-polymer nanocomposites. In sports, in particular, graphene-enhanced tennis racquets have grown in popularity. Scientists are optimistic that these composite materials could also be applied soon in Formula 1. Some of the contributions of graphene in sport are discussed below:

Golf ball and bladder

An inflatable bladder balloon was produced using avanGRP40, which is essentially graphene powder. This bladder ball was made by mixing graphene powder in a rubber mixer. The addition of avanGRP40 increased the barrier effect which significantly reduced the pressure loss.

In addition, the mechanical properties, in particular the tensile properties, have been considerably improved by this process. This has greatly benefited downstream retailers and end users. In golf, graphene-enhanced golf balls have dramatically improved the performance of players, as these balls have better speed, better control, and travel a longer distance.

graphene, sports, graphene based, hockey sticks, graphene enhanced, composites

Image Credit: Thaninee Chuensomchit / Shutterstock.com

Hockey

Recently, XG Sciences, a global manufacturer of graphene, has announced the production of new graphene-reinforced hockey sticks. Grays of Cambridge has been associated with the manufacture of sports equipment for many years. They strategically incorporated graphene into hockey sticks to improve player performance.

The addition of graphene not only improved durability but also provided exceptional power, feel and playability. Graphene technology has strengthened hockey sticks, which absorb shock better. Additionally, hockey sticks are now much lighter which has allowed players to run on the field with better ball control.

Tennis

Scientists analyzed a graphene-enhanced tennis racket using light microscopy and Raman spectroscopy. They revealed that the main structural components of these racquets were the sturdy carbon fibers in an epoxy resin matrix. Graphene improves the mechanical properties of regions rich in resin. Head, an Austrian producer of tennis rackets, said graphene improves the durability of the product and also protects users from injury.

Sports accessories

Colmar, an Italian outerwear brand, has developed graphene-enhanced clothing, such as ski jackets and pants. Graphene-based fabrics are non-toxic, hypoallergenic and non-cytotoxic to humans. Interestingly, this material acts as a filter between the body and the external environment and, therefore, ensures an ideal temperature for the user.

These tissues evenly distribute the heat generated by the human body in cold weather as in hot weather. In addition, graphene-based garments possess bacteriostatic effects which improve hygiene and anti-odor characteristics. These characteristics are particularly desirable for sportswear.

The researchers used the two-dimensional, planar nature of graphene in the optimal development of sportswear. The graphene-based fabric also improves the breathability of the textile product. Directa Plus, a global manufacturer of graphene-based products, designs custom thermal circuit clothing. He also obtained a US patent for his production of flame retardant composition based on graphene, which is extremely relevant for motorsports.

Osaka, the Japanese sportswear company, produced the world’s first graphene-based athletic shoes in 2018. In this shoe, graphene was mixed with rubber to produce soles that are several times stronger and more durable than ordinary training shoes. These soles are not only stronger, but also more stretch and wear resistant. Stickiest outsole improves user performance by providing rugged grip when running on wet trail.

Another interesting application of graphene is the development of portable sensors. These sensors can monitor an athlete’s heart rate in real time. In the future, graphene-based sensors could be designed to assess muscle movement, which could help athletic officials assess a player’s degree of recovery after injury.

References and future reading

Faruque, Al et al. (2021) Review of production methods and applications of graphene materials. Nanomaterials (Basel, Switzerland). 11 (9), 2414. https://doi.org/10.3390/nano11092414

The Graphene Council. (2020) [Online] Available at: https://www.thegraphenecouncil.org/blogpost/1501180/Graphene-Updates?tag=sporting+goods

Gibbons, S. (2018) The power of graphene in sportswear. [Online] Available at: https://www.wtin.com/article/2018/march/260318/the-power-of-graphene-in-sportswear/

Young, RJ and Liu, M. (2016) The microstructure of a graphene reinforced tennis racket. Journal of Materials Science. 51. p. 3861–3867. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10853-015-9705-6

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