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Nanocomposite Developed at MSU Could Help Automakers Meet Fuel Efficiency Standards

07 August 2009

Michigan State University researchers have developed a composite material modified with nanoparticles that they say is not only economical, it could also help automakers meet the new U.S. fuel efficiency standards.

The new nanocomposite is based on a nanomaterial invented at MSU – xGnP Graphene Nanoplatelets – and when added to sheet moulding compound (SMC) it becomes stronger, tougher and electrically conductive.

As the new nanocomposite is stiffer and stronger, less of it is needed to manufacture finished parts.

In order to meet the new U.S. automotive fuel efficiency standards, car manufacturers will need to increase fuel efficiency by more than five percent per year starting in 2012. To achieve these standards, automotive companies will need to considerably reduce the weight of their cars whilst still maintaining structural safety. The SMC formulation could be a significant help.

Researchers claim that when about three percent of the new material is added to the standard SMC formulation, the resulting composite material is stronger (by 40 percent) and stiffer (by 20 percent), and also has better impact strength (an increase of 80 percent).

“In addition to the increase in strength,” said Drzal, “this new nanocomposite is electrically conductive enough so that it can be electrostatically painted without requiring the additional coating process now used to paint most SMC parts. This will save money in manufacturing and reflects our approach toward overall cost effectiveness with these new advanced materials.”






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