There has been much interest in developing polymeric nanocomposites with ultra-high thermal conductivities such as with exfoliated graphite or carbon nanotubes. These materials exhibit thermal conductivity of 3,000 W/mK measured experimentally and up to 6,600 W/mK predicted from theoretical calculations. But when added to polymers, the expected thermal conductivity enhancement is not realized due to poor interfacial thermal transfer.
NASA Langley Research Center has developed a method to create high thermally conductive polymeric composites. Such materials can prove valuable in applications that require efficient, light-weight, and flexible thermal management solutions such as liquid-cooled ventilation garments.
This technology is a method of forming carbon-based fillers to be incorporated into highly thermal conductive nanocomposite materials. Formation methods include treatment of an expanded graphite with an alcohol/water mixture, followed by further exfoliation of the graphite to form extremely thin carbon nanosheets that are on the order of between about 2 and 10 nanometers in thickness. The carbon nanosheets can be functionalized and incorporated as fillers in polymer nanocomposites with extremely high thermal conductivities.