Extreme athletes Mike Fuchs and Eric Folz will use an expedition sled, or pulka, formed with trademarked Celstran continuous-fiber-reinforced polypropylene unidirectional tapes supplied by Ticona Engineering Polymens (Florence, Ky.), to explore the northernmost reaches of Norway's Spitsbergen island. The month-long journey into the Arctic Circle, dubbed "Mission Icefox" is expected to put the men and the materials from which their sled is fabricated to the test in extreme cold weather conditions.
All the pulka components have been designed for optimum mission support:
- Unidirectional Celstran tapes from Ticona form the Pulka shell to combine maximum resilience under Arctic conditions with extremely low weight.
- Trademarked GUR ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMW-PE) from Ticona is used in the runners. The material is degiend to shatterproof and scratch-resistant even under extreme stresses while maintaining excellent glide characteristics.
The sled, 170 cm long by 63 cm wide (67 by 25 inches), has a load volume under the cover of 600 liters (158 gal). It is designed to provide the least strenuous means to transport the equipment essential for survival during the 560-km (348-mile) ski tour from Longyearbyen to Verlegenhuken at the northernmost point on Spitsbergen and back. The expedition is scheduled to cover 23 days and initially will take the two adventurers towards the North Pole. At subfreezing temperatures of -45°C (-49°F), meticulous planning will be vital in the run up for the expedition.
Ticona is supporting Mission Icefox with the objective of demonstrating the superior properties of unidirectional Celstran CFR-TP tapes for the production of extremely lightweight and resilient structural components. This aim has already been reached with the material know-how and sled construction experience of the development partner Acapulka AS (Gvarv, Norway) and Ferdinand Stükerjürgen GmbH & Co. KG (Rietberg, Germany). Acapulka is a supplier of expedition pulkas, mainly to the Arctic, Antarctic and Greenland. Stükerjürgen is a polymer composites fabricator that serves a variety of application sectors, including aerospace.
“In the preparation, it is important to have a plan B and a plan C in place for any potentially dangerous situations because you have to act fast in the field. Intensive familiarization with the safety equipment to ensure reliable use even in the dark is just as important as mental preparation for any handicaps,” explains Fuchs.
Fuchs is a full-time photographer. He has experience from several tours in the far north. Folz, who works as an engineer at Ticona, is an enthusiastic long-distance runner and extreme athlete outside of work and is using his annual vacation for the adventure of a lifetime.
Folz is also aware of what lies ahead for man and material: “We are sure to reach our limits now and then. These may be physical limits or limits imposed by nature and its effects. That’s why we collaborated closely with the manufacturers Acapulka and Stükerjürgen in developing the concept of the sled," he notes. "Low weight, high stiffness and strength as well as optimum impact strength at very low temperatures down to -40°C are decisive to the success of our project. And of course good glide characteristics at all temperatures and on the vastly differing forms of snow and ice that occur.
Alexander Bierwald, responsible for the development of the new Pulka at Acapulka, comments: “We haven’t detected any material-specific weaknesses in the components in any of the preceding tests.”
Folz adds: “The reliability of the sled is of vital significance to us. We can’t take the equipment essential for survival like satellite phone, gas cooker, gas, provisions, tent, clothing, sleeping bags, emergency sender, flare gun and flares over 560 km in 23 days without it. We’re talking about a total load of 130 kg [286 lb]! That’s why the pulka underwent an exhaustive test program in advance — and passed with flying colors. The conditions during the expedition could hardly be more difficult.”
These tests included glide characteristics as well as tip and track stability. The sled was pulled manually or using a kite. The kite was used to determined fatigue on loading and tensile loading at high speeds. The impact and notched impact strength was tested with horizontal and vertical impact tests. Pulka expert Bierwald summarizes the positive results: “The material is highly resilient and has a potential weight saving in our application of up to 40 percent in the finished sled.”
The new pulkas will be demonstrating their qualities in the Arctic from March 27 to (probably) April 22. Folz and Fuchs will cover between 7 and 45 km (4 to 28 miles) per day, depending on the ground and weather conditions. The two adventurers will post their experiences in their polymers-on-ice blog, which includes all the information about Mission Icefox.
Ticona is part of the Advanced Engineered Materials segment of Celanese Corp., with net sales of $1,261 million in fiscal 2012. It produces and markets a broad range of high-performance products, and employs more than 1,500 individuals at production, compounding and research facilities in the U.S., Germany, Brazil and China. For more information, please visit www.ticona.com or www.ticona.cn (Chinese language).
The Celanese Corp. is a global producer of differentiated chemistry solutions and specialty materials used in most major industries and consumer applications. With sales almost equally divided between North America, Europe and Asia from its base in Dallas, Texas, Celanese employs approximately 7,600 employees worldwide and had 2012 net sales of $6.4 billion. For more information about Celanese Corp. and its product offerings, visit www.celanese.com or at its blog: www.celaneseblog.com