Ford to integrate graphene-enhanced parts into its vehicles
Ford Motor Co. (Dearborn, MI, US) has announced that it will use graphene nanomaterial to enhance foam materials that reduce noise inside its vehicles and increase performance under the hood. Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader for sustainability and emerging materials, says, “The breakthrough here is not in the material [graphene], but in how we are using it. 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 nanoplatelets, first isolated in 2004, consist of multiple layers or stacks of graphene sheets, which are bonded carbon atoms in sheet form one atom thick. These ultrathin carbon particles have demonstrated unique performance capabilities for energy storage, thermal conductivity, electrical conductivity, barrier properties and the ability to significantly improve mechanical properties when incorporated into plastics or other matrices, according to XG Sciences Inc. (Lansing, MI, US), the manufacturer of the graphene material trademarked under the name xGnP.
In 2014, Ford began working with suppliers to study graphene and how to use it in running trials with auto parts such as fuel rail covers, pump covers and front engine covers. Generally, attempting to reduce noise inside vehicle cabins means adding more material and weight, but with graphene, it’s the opposite, says John Bull, president of Eagle Industries (Wixom, MI, US), a supplier that designs and manufactures noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) components to the automotive OEM and Tier 1 community. “A small amount of graphene goes a long way, and in this case, it has a significant effect on sound absorption qualities,” Bull says.
In tests done by Ford and its suppliers, foam constituents with added graphene have shown about a 17% reduction in noise, a 20% improvement in mechanical properties and a 30% improvement in heat endurance properties, compared with foam used without graphene.
“We are excited about the performance benefits our products are able to provide to Ford and Eagle Industries,” says Philip Rose, XG Sciences’ CEO. “Working with early adopters such as Ford demonstrates the potential for graphene in multiple applications, and we look forward to extending our collaboration into other materials and enabling further performance improvements.” More than 10 underhood components enhanced with graphene are expected to go into production by year end on the Ford F-150 and Mustang and, eventually, other Ford vehicles.
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