Making Rockets Stronger with Graphene Oxide

Nicholas A -

Hello! I’m Nicholas Armistead and welcome to my Senior Project Blog. I will be investigating the viability of reinforcing composite structural parts in rockets with graphene oxide. 


First of all – what is graphene? Graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal pattern, like a honeycomb. Graphene has some extremely interesting physical properties. It is 200 times stronger than steel, and it is an amazing conductor, making it useful for electronics, sensors, materials, and more. However, if you have heard about graphene, you might know that it is expensive and difficult to produce. Instead, I will be using graphene oxide (abbreviated GO), which is similar to graphene but with a few key differences in its chemical structure. GO is cheaper and easier to make because it can be made from regular graphite and some chemistry. I’ll go more into depth on this topic later.


This project will combine my interests in aerospace engineering and materials science. I learned about graphene a few years ago, but recently I have become more interested in it. There have been some recent breakthroughs in producing graphene that made me wonder about how it could be used as a structural component. These materials would be the limit of what is possible with current aerospace structural technology. In college, I want to involve myself in original experimental research, and this project could yield some interesting results and experience that could be useful for my future career.


This project will have two parts: fabricating test specimens of composites with and without graphene, and using the data to model structural parts. My site placement is at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) Prescott, where I will be advised by Dr. Wahyu Lestari. There, I will be working on methods to reinforce epoxy/glass fiber composites with GO. Epoxy is a type of plastic that can be used for high performance applications. The lab testing will be an extension of the research my external mentor, Trupti Mahendrakar, worked on in 2016-2017. When she was at ERAU, Trupti was part of the Alternate Composite Team (ACT), which did their own research on composites with GO. ACT has data that I will compare with mine as well as some findings that might improve the process of making the test samples. For the computer modeling portion, I will use ANSYS to simulate forces a rocket would experience during flight to determine if the new GO material is viable for certain structural parts of the rocket, like the fuselage or nose cone. 


I’m super excited to get started with this project. Graphene is still a relatively new field, which means that there is a lot to learn. 

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    Akash Joseph
    This is an incredible opportunity for you, Nick! Working onsite and utilizing experimental data to verify/validate your hypothesis to push the boundaries of our knowledge is super exciting. I am looking forward to your analysis and results!
    Alana Rothschild
    I love that you are combining two different fields in your research (aerospace engineering and materials science). Additionally, I have not heard of graphene and its incredible properties, so I am excited to learn more about it. Your research is both interesting and very useful! God job.

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