New material could benefit automotive manufacturers

The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Applied Materials Research unveiled the results of its research on conductive plastics in its December 2008 edition of Research News.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Applied Materials Research (IFAM, Bremen, Germany) unveiled the results of its research on conductive plastics in its December 2008 edition of Research News. The publication described the group’s effort to develop a plastic/metal hybrid, in both granulate form and strand form, that is compatible with injection molding machinery and can be targeted to automotive, electronics and aerospace markets.

According to IFAM, the composite is created in a proprietary mixing process that produces a homogeneous and fine-grained electrically conductive “mesh” within a polymer matrix. The ma-terial is low in weight and chemically stable but possesses the electrical and thermal conductivity of a typical metal. One application cited by the R&D group is headlamp housings for cars and trucks, which today are typically made with plastic but still require punched metal sheets to provide current to the lamps. According to IFAM, the metal could be eliminated if the housings were made with the conductive plastic. Other uses might include the elimination of conductive lightning strike meshes for aircraft.

For more information about the new material as well as other areas of research and application, visit the Web site: www.fraunhofer.de/EN/.