Degradation and Breakdown of Polymer/Graphene Composites under Strong Electric Field

Yangming Kou, Xiang Cheng, Chris Macosko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In this work, we study the effect of strong electric fields on a polymer/graphene composite and the resulting morphology upon its dielectric breakdown. Our model system was produced by compounding up to 0.25 wt% graphene nanoplatelets (GNP) into poly(ethylene-co-vinyl acetate) (EVA), which is a soft polymer with low melt viscosity. A strong electric field of up to 400 Vrms/mm was applied to the EVA/GNP composite in the melt. The sample’s resistance over the electric field application was simultaneously measured. Despite the low GNP loading, which was below the theoretical percolation threshold, the electric conductivity of the composite during electric field application dramatically increased to >10−6 S/cm over 5 min of electric field application before reaching the current limit of the experimental apparatus. Conductivity growth follows the same scaling relationship of the theoretical model that predicts the rotation and translation time of GNPs in a polymer melt as a function of electric field strength. Since no significant GNP alignment in the composite was observed under transmission electron microscopy (TEM), we hypothesized that the increase in electrical conductivity was due to local electrical treeing of the polymer matrix, which eventually leads to dielectric breakdown of the composite. Electrical treeing is likely initiated by local GNP agglomerates and propagated through conductive channels formed during progressive dielectric breakdown.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number139
JournalJournal of Composites Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by the United States National Science Foundation grant number CMMI-1661666. The authors acknowledge partial funding by the University of Minnesota Industrial Partnership for Research in Interfacial Materials and Engineering (IPRIME), and the University of Minnesota Rheology Short Course.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • degradation
  • electric field
  • graphene
  • polymer composite


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