Principal investigator: Arash Dahi Taleghani

University: Pennsylvania State University

Industry partner: Polymics, Ltd.

Elastomer seals are critical barriers for maintaining integrity of wellbores against potential leakage of underground fluids as environmental hazards. However, there are serious concerns about the functionality and reliability of elastomeric sealings at elevated temperatures in deep geothermal and hydrocarbon wells. Temperature is one of the factors jeopardizing the functionality of elastomers. In particular, elevated temperatures beyond 250–300°F increase the risk of decomposition and degradation due to the formation of radial cracks and softening. Carbon nanofillers, such as graphene, carbon nanotube, and exfoliated graphite have recently attracted a great deal of attention to strengthen the mechanical properties of baseline polymer. We propose developing techniques to modify graphite nanoplatelets (GNPs) to reinforce elastomers at very low costs. Due to the modification, chemical groups are formed/wrapped on the surface of nanoparticles, enhancing the physical and chemical interaction between GNPs and the polymer solution. Having a uniform dispersion of strongly bonded nanoparticles within the polymeric matrix will efficiently enhance the resistance of generated nanocomposite against loading-unloading conditions, restricting the formation and propagation of radial cracks. This collaboration with Polymics, Ltd. will leverage their experience and lab capabilities to help Pennsylvania State University students to fabricate new elastomer-based nanocomposites to safely function at high temperatures.