The Truth About Cars » Materials http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Jul 2014 04:01:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Materials http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com NASA Opens Its Tech Hoard To The Car Industry http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/nasa-opens-its-tech-hoard-to-the-car-industry/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/nasa-opens-its-tech-hoard-to-the-car-industry/#comments Mon, 17 Oct 2011 16:56:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=415045

Crains Cleveland reports that NASA will be offering some 38 technologies developed for its space program to the auto industry at a trade show next week at the Glenn Research Center. With 100 OEMs and suppliers attending, the event will bring materials and technologies chosen for their usefulness in automotive applications to an industry that is anxious to develop solutions for upcoming fuel economy standards. And hopefully bring some licensing fees to an agency that is anxious to find private sources of income. In the words of NASA’s Paul Bartolotta

NASA is open for business. We’re opening our safe, so to speak

So, what’s on offer?

Per Crains,

The technologies are far ranging and include things like a special copper alloy that NASA developed for rocket nozzles. Those nozzles have to withstand tremendous temperatures and other harsh environmental conditions.

As it turns out, they also make great welding electrodes that can be used on robotic welders — electrodes that last far longer than those available using other metals, NASA says.

Also set to be unveiled is the material NASA developed to keep jet engine blades from penetrating the bodies of jet engines and plane fuselages.

The material, a type of foam sandwiched between special layers of something similar to carbon fiber, is super tough, but it’s also light. It might even serve as a new, lighter skin for NASA’s next rocket, though it could be useful in making lighter and stronger car bodies, Dr. Bartolotta said.

Other technologies include sensors and controls that could help hybrid or electric cars become more efficient; solid oxide fuel cells to power vehicles; new materials that can be used to contain pressurized natural gas; and green polymers that put out only water and not noxious gases when they are used.

And though NASA is attacking the same challenge as the auto industry, namely how to build vehicles that are cheap and efficient yet up to the rigorous demands of their duties, it seems interest may not be as high as you might think. Though over 100 firms will come by to see NASA’s technology, nearly 500 invitees have decided to sit the exhibition out. Given how competitive the auto industry is, it seems unlikely that these firms are sleeping on a truly game-changing technology… but then, materials technologies are all about applications. As pointed out in the example of the copper alloy, a material designed for one purpose can end up having a much bigger impact in a completely different application. And who knows where these new technologies could end up in your next car…

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Steel Industry: Replace Tailpipe Emissions Testing With Lifecycle Analysis http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/steel-industry-replace-tailpipe-emissions/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/steel-industry-replace-tailpipe-emissions/#comments Fri, 14 Oct 2011 17:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=414737
Light-weight materials such as carbon-fiber, aluminum and magnesium are widely touted as key components of the drive towards greater fuel economy. Which explains why the automotive steel supplier industry is suddenly calling for an end to tailpipe emissions testing and a switch to the more holistic life cycle analysis testing. According to a press release from WorldAutoSteel, an industry group, the production of steel alternatives can create up to 20 times the carbon emissions of steel.

Director Cees ten Broek explains

When vehicle emissions assessments are focused solely on the emissions produced during the driving phase (tailpipe), it encourages the use of greenhouse gas-intensive materials in the effort to reduce vehicle weight and fuel consumption. However, this may have the unintended consequence of increasing greenhouse gas emissions during the vehicle’s total life cycle. Regulations that focus only on one part of the vehicle’s life cycle will become immediately out of date as the electric vehicle becomes more prominent on the road. We are only shifting the problem to other vehicle life cycle phases.

It’s always interesting to watch industries react when their self-interest suddenly aligns with idealism, but steel industry self-interest isn’t a reason to reject this idea out of hand. A study by the engineering firm Ricardo [PDF here] shows that as batteries and lightweight materials increase the amount of “embedded carbon” in cars, the production-side emissions are expected to reach 57% of life cycle emissions. In light of this trend, it’s not difficult to see why regulating tailpipe emissions alone makes little sense in a comprehensive carbon-regulation scheme. But, as the Ricardo study also shows, life cycle analysis is difficult and complicated. Imagining those complex calculations being fed into the complexity of a CAFE-style program literally makes the mind boggle.

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Are You Ready For: Plastic Windows? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/are-you-ready-for-plastic-windows/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/are-you-ready-for-plastic-windows/#comments Tue, 12 Jul 2011 23:14:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=402387

As automakers face slowly diminishing returns in their attempts to make internal combustion engines more efficient (while facing huge challenges in electric, hydrogen and other alt-fuel drivetrains), they are looking ever more closely at alternative materials to improve efficiency (and, to a lesser extent, driving pleasure) through weight-savings. Perhaps the biggest emerging trend in this area, especially at the higher end of the market, is in the use of carbon fiber, which is being actively pursued by automakers like BMWToyota, Lamborghini and Daimler. But, as WardsAuto points out, there’s another material that’s trying to earn a place in the lightweight cars of tomorrow: polycarbonate plastics.

Polycarbonate windows weigh half as much as glass, and because they are made with injection molding they can come in shapes that can’t be imagined with glass.

However, the material is more expensive. To get auto makers to convert, Sabic and its main material competitor, Bayer MaterialScience, have to sell the idea of integrating other parts into the plastic mold that makes the window.

For example, says Umamaheswara, “on a liftgate, a lot of features can be integrated, and if the manufacturer is short of room in the factory, it can be delivered as a module.”

A modular liftgate could include the window, cladding for the D-pillar, a roof spoiler, the high-mounted rear brake light, a rear wiper foot, handles and logos. When all those processing costs are included, he says, polycarbonate is competitive with glass and metal.

These unique assemblies are just one of the growth areas for polycarbonate plastics. Already, Wards reports that the material has become standard for headlamp covers, and when it comes to high-end, cost-no-object projects, well:

Bugatti developed a targa top for its Veyron 16:4 Grand Sport roadster in both glass and polycarbonate from Bayer, and the plastic version chosen had a weight savings of 13.0 lbs. (5.9 kg)

But that’s not the only project that has seen polycarbonates used to create light-weight windows and lower centers of gravity:

The Smart Fourtwo was the first to use polycarbonate windows, with fixed rear sidelites starting in 1998. Supplier Freeglass has made about 4 million plastic windows for Smart, Mercedes-Benz, the European Honda Civic and the SEAT Leon.

But don’t expect to see many polycarbonate plastic windows or other large subassemblies in many mass-market cars for the next few years. Even though firms like Sabic are coming up with special plastics that, if used on panorama roofs, will not just lower weight but improve insulation as well, they don’t expect major-volume projects until more EVs start coming to market, in the 2014-2015 timeframe. In the meantime, if you’re already raring for some polycarbonate windows, you’ll have to spring for a high-price Euro-spec road-racer like the Renaultsport Mégane R.26.R.

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