Getting to grips with graphene: BAC begins trials of new composites

Published: 01 August 2016

► BAC testing graphene panels
► Claimed weight reduction of 20%
► Reputedly more durable, too

BAC, the Liverpool-based sports car company, is trialling the use of graphene composites in its single-seat Mono.

The company is using graphene-reinforced carbonfibre, which is claimed to offer increased strength and a weight reduction of 20%. Weight reductions of that significance are not to be sniffed at, given that they offer benefits on both the performance and efficiency front.

So far, BAC – in conjunction with specialists Haydale Composite Solutions – has moulded rear arches for its high-performance Mono from the new graphene-reinforced composite.

What on earth is graphene?

Graphene is the building block of many materials that we’re more familiar with, including charcoal and – as the name suggests – graphite. It’s been on scientists’ radars since the ’60s and rose to prominence in 2004, when it was finally isolated and identified.

It’s a seemingly wondrous two-dimensional single-layer material that offers immense strength and low weight – as well as being an excellent conductor. That said, despite its remarkable properties, it’s yet to make a major impact in any market – but it’s still in its relative infancy.

Why is BAC testing the material?

Neill Briggs, development director and co-founder of BAC, said: ‘Making significant weight savings and improving body strength will allow us to offer improved performance to our customers.

‘BAC is uniquely placed in the automotive industry to be able to take innovative steps, and this latest work with graphene is further proof of this. We don’t wait for new technology to come to us, we actively seek it out and work with the very best in the industry to stay at the forefront of the automotive and motorsport industries.’

Why isn’t everyone else using it?

Graphene is difficult to produce in significant quantites and, due to the complexities involved in its production, very expensive as a result. Its atom-thick form also makes its applications in raw state limited to small-scale applications, such as electronic components.

However, the increasingly demand is leading to a rapid fall in production costs. Mixing it with other materials to create strong, lightweight composites – as Haydale has done – allows it to be more easily used in the fabrication of parts and panels.

Ebby Shahidi, director of Haydale’s aerospace and defense divison, said: ‘These initial materials have shown some major increases in impact and thermal performance coupled with improved surface finish and it’s pleasing to see these attributes being demonstrated on such a high performance vehicle as the Mono.’

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By Lewis Kingston

Formerly of this parish. Inveterate car buyer and seller; currently owner of a '68 Charger project car