New Polyurethane system can reduce weight of components in cars by 30%

Demand for lightweight construction systems in the automotive industry is now at an all-time high, with the aim being to cut fuel consumption, costs and CO2 emissions. According to VCD Verkehrsclub Deutschland, reducing the weight of a vehicle by 100 kilograms lowers fuel consumption by 0.5 liters over a distance of 100 kilometers and cuts carbon dioxide emissions by 1.2 kilograms over the same distance. Lightweight structures are now more important than ever given the trend toward future-oriented drive technologies such as electric mobility.

Bayer MaterialScience has already developed a wide range of energy-efficient polyurethane materials for the automotive sector. At UTECH 2012, it is going one step further with the presentation of the Bayflex® RIM Light Weight polyurethane system that can be used to further reducing the weight of finished components by up to 30 percent. With a density of just 0.9 kilograms per liter, this material is even lighter than water.

This solution owes its lightweight design to the high-grade Bayflex® polyurethane system in tandem with a clever combination of fillers that replace the usual mineral fibers,” explained Dr. Birgit Meyer zu Berstenhorst, who was responsible for developing the material. “The excellent mechanical properties remain intact,” she added. The material enables a considerable reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions and, with certain vehicle models, also improves driving dynamics. In electric cars, this better compensates for the still considerable weight of the battery and helps extend the vehicle’s range.

Near term it seems the Polyurethane system and new lighter and stronger metals will lead the way in terms of materials that can be produced in the mass quantities needed to have a major impact on making lighter cars.

Cambridge University has formed a consortium with Nokia Research Centre (UK); ST Microelectronics (Switzerland); International Copper Association(USA); Nexans (France); Bosch (Germany); Oxford Instruments (UK) and Codelco (Chile) to commercialize various Nano-Carbon Enhanced Materials.

Nanomaterials for transportation applications.

To truly impact the weight of cars the amount of materials has to get up to about 10 million tons per year. This would provide 100 kg of material for each of about 100 million cars and trucks. It would also be good to have material for after market components to enable older cars to be made lighter.

There was an article about unlimiting energy growth by using smart materials for energy harvesting under roads and to use carbon nanotubes to make superlight vehicles.

Central to that article was work covered in 2011 here at Nextbigfuture. A new electrochemical method [developed by Derek Fray] could readily be scaled up (by using a multi-electrode cell with planar graphite electrodes) to produce more than 600kg of carbon nanotubes per day at a projected cost of around $10(£6.10)/kg. This is 100 times cheaper than other methods

There is no satisfactory material containing tin or silicon that can be used within the anode of the batteries that does not change volume significantly as lithium is stored in it.

It is believed that tin-filled carbon nanoparticles produced by Professor Derek Fray’s method could be the solution to this problem and potentially provide the necessary performance enhancements in battery capacity.

It is also intended to use the new process for the production of silicon-filled particles which could enhance battery performance even further.

“Using our method we can create a product that contains 80 per cent carbon nanotubes or filled nanoparticles,” said Professor Fray. “We have carried out experiments that show that our material can store significant amounts of lithium with minimal change in volume, and we believe that this material has the potential to greatly increase the capacity of lithium-ion batteries.”

The project is funded by the Technology Strategy Board and will be led by Morgan AM&T, a UK-based company which specializes in the processing and applications of carbon, graphite and related materials.

Morgan AM&T will optimise the graphite for use in the process, while the Cambridge team will optimise the process as well as commission and install a scaled-up demonstrator reactor. Morgan will then validate the carbon nanomaterials for routine use in lithium-ion batteries and other applications.

If the project is successful, the company intends to establish a manufacturing capability at its site in South Wales.

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