Graphene has excellent mechanical, thermal, and electrical properties. Graphene can serve as potential reinforcement in polymer-based nanocomposites. In order to achieve this goal, graphene has to be distributed homogeneously and dispersed throughout the polymer matrix, establishing a strong interface with the polymer. Solution mixing is an interesting method for the preparation of homogeneous nanocomposites, in particular when using environmentally friendly solvents such as water. The major difficulty met in the production of graphene/polymer composites concerns the preparation and stabilization of graphene in aqueous suspension. In the present work three different graphite-based materials, with different crystallinity and purity grades, were exfoliated in aqueous solution of an amphiphilic pyrene derivative, forming few-layer graphene (FLG). The FLG prepared was dispersed in waterborne polyurethane (WPU) to produce composite films. The composite films were produced by solvent casting and spray coating, forming free-standing films that were characterized in terms of its distribution of FLG through the composite, its permeability to water vapor, its electrical resistivity, and its mechanical properties. The studies demonstrated the influence of different factors on the composite film properties such as the use of graphite vs. FLG, the FLG lateral dimensions, and the FLG composition and composite preparation method.
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