Science

Polyurethane composite could replace steel or aluminum in some applications

Polyurethane composite could r...
The diesel engine housing, made using the new composite material
The diesel engine housing, made using the new composite material
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The diesel engine housing, made using the new composite material
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The diesel engine housing, made using the new composite material

A consortium of German research groups has created a new sandwich-type material that they claim offers strength similar to that of steel or aluminum, yet is significantly lighter and less expensive. It consists of a honeycomb-structured paper core, with glass fiber-reinforced layers of polyurethane on the outsides. To give an idea of how tough it is, it’s about to be tested on the diesel engine housing of a train.

The material is intended for a number of applications, but it was decided that the engine housing would be a good test. The housing will be located on the underside of the train, where it will be constantly subjected to track debris such as flying rocks. It must also contain engine fluids such as oil, to keep them from leaking into the environment, while additionally serving to contain the flames in the event of an engine fire – additives in the polyurethane ensure that it meets fire safety standards.

The experimental housing is reportedly 35% lighter than a standard metal unit, and is approximately 30% cheaper to produce. So far, it has done very well on mechanical stress tests, performed on a laboratory rig. The next step will be to actually install it on a running train, and see how it works in the real world.

Groups involved in the project include Bombardier GmbH, KraussMaffei Kunststofftechnik GmbH, Bayer MaterialScience AG, DECS GmbH, the DLR’s Institute for Vehicle Concepts, the University of Stuttgart, the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT.

Source: Fraunhofer

12 comments
12 comments
Hamish Robertson
It would be interesting to know how its carbon footprint compares to steel or aluminium?
Carlos Grados
Sounds like it won't rust! What does degrade this material?
Edgar Castelo
Carbon footprint! Won't rust! We're lucky the Wheel got invented before this sad Eco-Inquisition Era...
Robert Knapman
Way to go Germany, I can think of thousands of applications. Plasteel...who would have thunk...
Mark Keller
Home siding and roofing come to mind as applications for this too.
Jim Young
What is the cost per square meter compared to other substances - you guys get too eager to through news our without adding information that and additional art or pics to better tell the entire story! Carbon Footprint must be known as well?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Iván Imhof
... and after a few decades Ironman championship renamed to Polyurethanman...
When the wheel got invented, there were maybe a few millions of people and plenty of resources. Now there are 7 billions and rising. While there are much less resources and falling...
Adrian Akau
"The experimental housing is reportedly 35% lighter than a standard metal unit, and is approximately 30% cheaper to produce." A comparison should also be made with carbon fiber. If it is light and inexpensive, it should be crash tested to determine it would be useable to replace steel panels in cars.
Giovanni
Can this material be used for Marine application, boat building. If the answer is yes, what is the best method for forming and fusing one panel to another.
Giovanni
pointyup
beaut, build me a ute. Ideal for car bodies for the electric car.
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