In January 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland, they introduced the world’s lightest mechanical watches, presenting an innovative composite development using graphene. Now research has been published to show the background of the project. Unique precision watches were the result of collaboration between the University of Manchester, Richard Mille Watches and McLaren Applied Technologies.
The RM 50-03 watch was made using a unique graphite composite to produce a powerful but light new case that contained a watch mechanism weighing only 40 grams, including a strap.
The collaboration was an exercise in engineering excellence and the examination of methods of correct alignment of graphene in a composite material to maximize the two-dimensional extraordinary properties of mechanical stiffness and graphene strength, eliminating the need for additional, heavier materials.
The results of research on the development of these unique watches have been published in the Composites Part A: Applied Science and Manufacturing. The research was mainly carried out by a group of researchers at the National Graphene Institute of Manchester University.
Research leader Professor Robert Young said: “In this work, by adding only a small amount of graphene to the matrix, the mechanical properties of a carbon fiber reinforced composite have greatly improved.”
“This could have an impact on precision engineering in the future, where the strength, stiffness and weight of the product are key parameters, for example in the aerospace and automotive industries.”
A small amount of graphene used has been added to the carbon fiber composite material to improve stiffness and reduce weight to meet the requirement to use a smaller amount of total material. Since graphene has high levels of stiffness and strength, its use as a reinforcement in polymer composites has enormous potential to further improve the mechanical properties of the composites.
The final results were achieved with only 2% by weight of graphene added to the epoxy resin. The resulting graphite and carbon fiber composites were then analyzed by pulling and mechanisms associated with the positive properties of the produced material were detected primarily using Raman spectroscopy and X-ray CT scans.
The benefit of this research is the demonstration of a simple method that can be integrated into existing industrial processes, enabling the engineering industries to exploit the mechanical properties of graphene for manufacturing such as aircraft wing production or high performance car bodies.
The research group found that, when compared to equivalent carbon fiber components, the addition of graphite significantly improved stiffness and tensile strength. This happened when the graph was scattered across the material and aligned in the direction of the fibers.
Dr. Zheling Li, of the University of Manchester, said: “This study is a way to increase the axial stiffness and strength of composites by simple conventional methods of processing and to clarify the mechanisms that lead to this strengthening.”
R & D leader Aurèle Vuilleumier at Richard Mille said: “This project is a perfect example of the transition from university to product.” McLaren Applied Technologies’ partnership allows for a wide-ranging diffusion of high-grafted composites for industrial use as a tangible result for our customers world record lights and powerful watches: RM 50-03. “
Dr. Broderick Coburn, chief engineering engineer at McLaren Applied Technologies, said: “The potential of graphene to improve the structural properties of composites has been known and demonstrated at a laboratory scale for some time now. This application, though being the first finisher, is a great example of the structural benefits that come from pre-prepared materials into a real product. “
The University of Manchester will soon celebrate the opening of its second Grafenne Engineering Innovation Center (GEIC), which will be opened later this year. GEIC will enable the industry to work together with academics to bring prototype research into pilot production and accelerate the commercialization of graphene.