© 2019 American Chemical Society. Polymers with superior mechanical properties are desirable in many applications. In this work, polyethylene (PE) films reinforced with exfoliated thermally reduced graphene oxide (TrGO) fabricated using a roll-to-roll hot-drawing process are shown to have outstanding mechanical properties. The specific ultimate tensile strength and Young’s modulus of PE/TrGO films increased monotonically with the drawing ratio and TrGO filler fraction, reaching up to 3.2 ± 0.5 and 109.3 ± 12.7 GPa, respectively, with a drawing ratio of 60× and a very low TrGO weight fraction of 1%. These values represent by far the highest reported to date for a polymer/graphene composite. Experimental characterizations indicate that as the polymer films are drawn, TrGO fillers are exfoliated, which is further confirmed by molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Exfoliation increases the specific area of the TrGO fillers in contact with the PE matrix molecules. Molecular dynamics simulations show that the PE-TrGO interaction is stronger than the PE-PE intermolecular van der Waals interaction, which enhances load transfer from PE to TrGO and leverages the ultrahigh mechanical properties of TrGO.
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