Structural-composite car underbody study wins top prize

A multi-year study on the feasibility of a structural-composite underbody for a midsize car was the top paper presented at the 11th-annual Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition (ACCE), held this fall in Troy, MI. Hannes Fuchs senior engineer at Multimatic Engineering, who came to the automotive industry from the NASA-Virginia Tech Composites Program and from post-doctoral research activities at the NASA Langley Research Center, and co-author Eric Gillund, lead structures engineer at Multimatic, undertook the preparation and fabrication of underbody test assemblies for the United States Council for Automotive Research's (USCAR's) as part of a multi-year study.

ACCE paper winner Multimatic Engineering
Left to right: Hannes Fuchs, Libby Berger (GM/ACC), Bhavesh Shah (GM/ACC), and Chuck Knakal (USCAR); photo courtesy Multimatic.

Fuchs, who also won an SPE ACCE Best Paper Award in 2010, had his paper chosen from 49 contenders (31 of whom submitted formal papers) that cleared peer review. Four winners, one from industry and three from academia, were honored for excellence in technical writing. Other winning papers included research on:

Exfoliated graphene nanoplatelets (GNP) as the conductive filler to construct highly conductive polymeric nanocomposites that could substitute for conventional metallic and graphite bipolar plates in polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells.

A new method of incorporating nanofillers into epoxy resins. Called "nano-nectar," the liquid nano-reinforcement (LNR) can reportedly be easily dispersed in the base epoxy matrix and reinforce and toughen the resin, while also reducing viscosity. In fiber-reinforced plastics, this means less energy is needed to manufacture composite parts thanks to lower power requirements for flow and part consolidation.

A study on the merits and weaknesses of a progressive failure composite material model in order to evaluate the effect of geometric features on crush behavior, both from an experimental and numerical standpoint.

Those papers were authored, respectively, by Xian Jiang, a doctoral candidate in the department of Chemical Engineering and Material Science at Michigan State University, with Jiang earning the second highest score; W.H. Katie Zhong, a professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, at Washington State University (WSU); and Francesco Deleo, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics at the University of Washington.

ACCE 2012, will be held Sept. 11-13 at the Michigan State University Management Education Center (Troy, MI).


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