Ford touts graphene-enhanced PU foam for vehicle parts

In a reported first in the auto sector, Ford, along with Tier I Eagle Industries and graphene supplier XG Sciences, has found a way to use a very small amount of graphene to achieve major property improvements in under-the-hood auto components, namely lighter weight, better heat conductivity and enhanced noise reduction. The material in question has been dubbed xGnP graphene-enhanced polyurethane (PU) foam.

Ford is initially deploying graphene in PU foam components to improve sound damping in under-the-hood components, while also delivering lightweighting and heat conductivity.

Graphene is 200-times stronger than steel.

Graphene has recently generated enthusiasm and excitement in the automotive industry for paint, polymer and battery applications. Dubbed a “miracle material” by some engineers, graphene is 200 times stronger than steel and one of the most conductive materials in the world. It is a great sound barrier and is extremely thin and flexible. Graphene is not economically viable for all applications, but Ford, in collaboration with Eagle Industries and XG Sciences, has found a way to use small amounts 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. “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.”

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. Generally, attempting to reduce noise inside vehicle cabins means adding more material and weight, but with graphene, it’s the opposite. “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.

The graphene is mixed with PU foam constituents, and tests conducted 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.” Graphene is expected to go into production by year end on over ten under hood components on the Ford F-150 and Mustang and eventually, other Ford vehicles.

Headquartered in Wixom, MI, Eagle Industries is a leading supplier that designs and manufactures NVH components to the automotive OEM and Tier 1 community. Headquartered in Lansing, MI, XG Sciences, Inc. is a leading supplier of graphene nanoplatelets and custom advanced formulations to global OEMs serving composites, electronics, energy and industrial markets. XG has provided its distinct high-performance products to over 1,000 customers in 47 countries.

In early October XG Sciences, completed the first phase of expansion in its newest 64,000-square-foot facility. The expansion has added 90 tonnes/year of graphene nanoplatelet production capacity, bringing the total capacity of the facility up to approximately 180 tonnes/year and enabling the formulation of up to 18,000 tonnes of advanced materials per year. Phase two of the expansion is expected to be complete by year-end and will result in up to 400 tonnes/year of total graphene nanoplatelet output capacity at the facility.

XG’s total graphene nanoplatelet output capacity across both of its manufacturing facilities currently exceeds 200 tonnes per year and will more than double over the next three months, reaching up to an approximate 450 tonnes/year by year-end. The expansions support XG’s mission to continue commercializing the use of graphene in customer products across diverse industries.

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