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Ford is Experimenting with ‘Miracle Material' to Make Vehicles Stronger & Quieter

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【Summary】The Ford Motor Company announced earlier this month that it is exploring the use of graphene, a two-dimensional nano-material, for use in automotive parts. Ford says it the first automaker to incorporate graphene material in vehicle production.

Eric Walz    Oct 29, 2018 12:26 PM PT
Ford is Experimenting with ‘Miracle Material' to Make Vehicles Stronger & Quieter
author: Eric Walz   

The Ford Motor Company announced earlier this month that it is exploring the use of graphene, a two-dimensional nanomaterial, for use in automotive parts. Ford says it the first automaker to incorporate graphene material in vehicle production.

Graphene is a recently discovered material and is dubbed a "miracle material" by some engineers. that has generated interest and excitement in the automotive industry for paint, polymer and battery applications.

Graphene is 200 times stronger than steel and one of the most conductive materials in the world. The material is extremely thin and flexible and ideal for reducing sound, making vehicles quieter.

Although graphene is not economically viable for all applications, Ford is collaborating with Eagle Industries and XG Sciences, a manufacturer of graphene nanoplatelets. Ford has found ways to use small amounts of graphene in fuel rail covers, pump covers and front engine covers to maximize its benefits.

"The breakthrough here is not in the material, but in how we are using it," said Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader, sustainability and emerging materials in a statement. "We are able to use a very small amount, less than a half percent, to help us achieve significant enhancements in durability, sound resistance and weight reduction – applications that others have not focused on."

Graphene was first isolated by researchers in 2004, but application breakthroughs are relatively new.

The first experiment was done by using pencil lead, which contains graphite, and a piece of tape, using the tape to pull off layers of graphite to create a material that is a single layer thick – graphene. This experiment to isolate the material won a Nobel Prize in 2010.

In 2014, Ford began working with suppliers to study the material and how to use it in running trials with auto parts such as fuel rail covers, pump covers and front engine covers. Ford noted that attempts at reducing noise inside vehicle cabins normally means adding more material and weight. However this is not the case with graphene, as the material is very lightweight and excellent at reducing noise.

"A small amount of graphene goes a long way, and in this case, it has a significant effect on sound absorption qualities," said John Bull, president of Eagle Industries, a molder of high volume polyurethane foam products for the automotive and industrial industries

The graphene is mixed with foam materials and tests done by Ford and suppliers has shown about a 17 percent reduction in noise, a 20 percent improvement in mechanical properties and a 30 percent improvement in heat endurance properties, compared with that of the foam used without graphene.

"We are excited about the performance benefits our products are able to provide to Ford and Eagle Industries," said Philip Rose, XG Sciences' chief executive officer. "Working with early adopters such as Ford Motor Company demonstrates the potential for graphene in multiple applications, and we look forward to extending our collaboration into other materials, and enabling further performance improvements."

Ford said that Graphene is expected to go into production by year end on over ten under hood components on the Ford F-150 pickup and Mustang. Eventually, graphene will be used in other Ford models.

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