SCIENCE CHINA Materials, Volume 61, Issue 1: 112-124(2018) https://doi.org/10.1007/s40843-017-9142-2

Composite structural modeling and tensile mechanical behavior of graphene reinforced metal matrix composites

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  • ReceivedJul 27, 2017
  • AcceptedOct 15, 2017
  • PublishedNov 28, 2017


Owing to its distinguished mechanical stiffness and strength, graphene has become an ideal reinforcing material in kinds of composite materials. In this work, the graphene (reduced graphene oxide) reinforced aluminum (Al) matrix composites were fabricated by flaky powder metallurgy. Tensile tests of pure Al matrix and graphene/Al composites with bioinspired layered structures are conducted. By means of an independently developed Python-based structural modeling program, three-dimensional microscopic structural models of graphene/Al composites can be established, in which the size, shape, orientation, location and content of graphene can be reconstructed in line with the actual graphene/Al composite structures. Elastoplastic mechanical properties, damaged materials behaviors, graphene-Al interfacial behaviors and reasonable boundary conditions are introduced and applied to perform the simulations. Based on the experimental and numerical tensile behaviors of graphene/Al composites, the effects of graphene morphology, graphene-Al interface, composite configuration and failure behavior within the tensile mechanical deformations of graphene/Al composites can be revealed and indicated, respectively. From the analysis above, a good understanding can be brought to light for the deformation mechanism of graphene/Al composites.

Funded by

National Natural Science Foundation(51501111,51131004)

the Ministry of Science and Technology of China(2016YFE0130200)

Science & Technology Committee of Shanghai(14DZ2261200,1452,0710100,14JC14033,00)

111 Project(B16032)


The authors acknowledge the financial supports by the National Natural Science Foundation (51501111, 51131004), the Ministry of Science and Technology of China (2016YFE0130200), Science & Technology Committee of Shanghai (14DZ2261200, 1452 0710100 and 14JC14033 00) and 111 Project (B16032).

Interest statement

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Contributions statement

Zhang D and Su Y designed and directed the overall study. Sample preparation, tensile tests and SEM, TEM observation were carried out by Li Z, Yu Y and Zhao L, respectively. Su Y wrote the manuscript and discussed the results and analyzed the data with Li ZQ, Guo Q and Xiong D.

Author information

Yishi Su received his PhD from University of Technology of Troyes, France in 2012, and joined Professor Di Zhang’s group as a post-doctor and assistant professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University since 2012, 2014. His research interests focus on biomimetic metal matrix composites and materials genome computation.

Di Zhang received his PhD from Osaka University, Japan. He is now a Chair Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China (since 1994), the director of State Key Lab of Metal Matrix Composites and the Institute of Composite Materials at SJTU (since 2003), and the Professor of Chang Jiang Scholars Program (since 2001). Prof. Zhang has published more than 200 peer reviewed academic articles, 1 English academic book on morphology-genetic materials, and attended international conferences as invited speakers for 47 times. His research interests include the process of advanced metal matrix composites and the basic and applied research on biomimetic morphology-genetic materials.


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  • Figure 1

    Microstructural characterization and mechanical properties of graphene/Al composites: (a) spherical Al powders; (b) dispersed GO (graphene oxide) on Al flakes; (c) 1.5 vol% graphene/Al composite with layered structures and (d) tensile stress-strain relations of Al matrix and graphene /Al composites.

  • Figure 2

    3D microscopic structural modeling of graphene reinforcement: (a) statistic size distribution of GO; (b) 2D in-plane contour of single graphene; (c) 3D structural modeling of single graphene and (d) 3D structural model of single graphene.

  • Figure 3

    3D microscopic structural modeling of graphene/Al composites: (a) illustration of structural modeling; (b) structural model of single graphene; (c) structural model of multiple graphenes; structural models of 1.5 vol% graphene/Al composites with (d) layered structure and (e) dislayered structure.

  • Figure 4

    Mechanical properties and interfacial behavior in graphene/Al composites: (a) elastoplastic mechanical properties; (b) tensile stress-strain relations; (c) strengthening stress increase in Al matrix and (d) damaged cohesive interfacial model of graphene-Al interfaces.

  • Figure 5

    Tensile mechanical properties and equivalent strain or stress distributions in Al matrix with: (a) different mesh size and (b) failure materials behavior; and in 0.75 vol% graphene/Al composites with: (c) model repeatability and (d) different model size.

  • Figure 6

    Tensile mechanical properties and equivalent stress distributions of graphene/Al composites with differing interfacial behaviors for: (a) 0.75 vol% and (b) 1.50 vol% graphene/Al composites; with varying composite configurations for: (c), (e) 0.75 vol% and (d), (f) 1.50 vol% graphene/Al composites, respectively.

  • Figure 7

    Tensile mechanical properties and equivalent strain distributions of graphene/Al composites with failure behaviors for: (a) 0.75 vol% and (b) 1.50 vol% graphene/Al composites; Virtual tensile crack propagations in 0.75 vol% graphene/Al composites with the structural model size of (c) 3h×3h×3h and (d) 10h×10h×h; Tensile crack growth paths at the failure of (e) Al matrix and (f) 0.75 vol% graphene/Al composites, respectively.

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