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Composite Materials Literature review for Car


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Composite Materials Literature review
Chidubem I.W. Ezekwem
Department of Physics, Loughborough University

Abstract
For cars, weight and fuel efficiency are two important issues. Research has shown that the best way
to improve fuel efficiency is to reduce the overall weight of the car, without sacrificing the safety of
the passengers. The use of composites in the production of car parts has proven to be able to
balance the reducing the weight and preserving passenger safety. The car bumper is one of unique
area that has benefited from the use of composite material. In this review, two bumpers made from
nylon-6 nanocomposite and polyethylene/palm kernel shell-iron filings composite are analysed. The
mechanical properties of these composite materials are then compared to conventional car bumper
material such as aluminium and steel, this comparison showed a reduction in weight, cost and
environmental impact, disadvantages such as difficulty in mass production and sophistication of the
production process were also noted.

Contents
Abstract ................................................................................................................................................... 1
Introduction ............................................................................................................................................ 2
Bumpers .................................................................................................................................................. 2
Bumper material requirements .......................................................................................................... 2
Aluminium bumpers ........................................................................................................................... 2
Steel bumpers ..................................................................................................................................... 3
Dimensions and Properties of existing steel Bumpers ................................................................... 3
The production of steel bumpers ................................................................................................... 3
Composite Bumper ................................................................................................................................. 3
Composite materials used .................................................................................................................. 4
Glass fibres ...................................................................................................................................... 4
Epoxy resin ...................................................................................................................................... 4
Design of a composite bumper ............................................................................................................... 4
Recycled Polyethylene/palm kernel shell-iron filings composite ................................................... 5
Nylon-6 ............................................................................................................................................ 6
Summary ......................................................................................................................................... 7
Appendix ................................................................................................................................................. 8
Bibliography ......................................................................................................................................... .10
Introduction As stated earlier, the National highway traffic safety
administration produced a set of standards which
This literature review will focus on car bumpers, the
govern the base requirements of bumpers for
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
passenger automobiles. The bumper standards
(NHTSA) defines a bumper as a shield made of
imposed are [3] [4]:
aluminium, plastic, rubber or steel that is mounted on
the front and rear of a passenger car. It is expected  Front and rear bumpers on passenger cars
that in low speed collision the bumper system is to be should prevent damage to car body,
able to absorb the shock to reduce or prevent damage  Bumper should be capable of withstanding
to the car; some make use of energy absorbers or impacts at 2 mph across full width and 1mph
brackets and other foam cushioning materials [1]. on corners,
Following current trends, weight reduction has  Bumper should be able to withstand 5 mph
become a key focus of automobile manufacturers. crashes with parked cars,
 Bumpers are to be placed between 16 to 20
Sustainable use and development of natural resources
inches above road surfaces.
is the main focus of automobile manufacturers in the
present market [2]. Achieving the above calls for a Satisfying these conditions during low speed impact
more innovative approach to better materials, more collisions is paramount.
effective manufacturing processes and an
introduction of superior design concepts. Bumper material requirements
 Able to absorb more energy while in collision
Bumpers  Easy for large scale manufacturing,
Car bumper is a safety system used to counteract low  High resistance to rust,
speed collisions, it is placed in the car body and  Light in weight,
designed to prevent or reduce physical damage to the  Low cost.
front and rear ends of the car during low impact
collisions [1].

Figure 1: Structural Framework of car (©http://www.gettydesign.com/catalog/996/bodywork/diagram.jpg)

Figure 1 above shows a simple structural framework Aluminium bumpers


of passenger cars as it can be seen there are a total of Aluminium bumpers are advantageous in the sense
two bumpers in the car structure them being the front that they are lighter and stronger than steel. In
and back bumper. Bumpers are not generally contrast, they are much more expensive and prone to
designed to be significantly contributed to the crash major fractures. It shot to fame through race cars but
wordiness of the car during front or rear impact has since been overshadowed by carbon fibre [5] [6].
collisions; it should not be mistaken as a safety Ferrari has reported that: aluminium bumpers are
feature intended to prevent severe injury to the easier to shape than carbon fibre ones and the weight
occupants. Bumpers also serve to protect the front increase is negligible [7].
fenders, trunk/deck lid, exhaust and cooling systems
as well as critical safety related equipment such as In present work, the aluminium bumper used in
headlights, taillights and indicators in the event of low passenger type cars is being replaced by composite
speed collisions. materials made up of glass, carbon fibres, etc. and
nanocomposite materials such as nylon-6 which is a
Nano clay-polyamide. The bumper thickness for is added. This is done using a standard electro plating
composite bumper, when calculated through bending process in water and chemical filled tanks where the
moment equation and other dimensions for steel, particles of the plating metal are laced with a positive
aluminium and composite bumper is considered to be charge. When a negative charge is passed through, a
the similar. Comparing the stress, weight and cost magnetic field is created. This field draws the particles
saving is therefore objective [8] [9]. onto the blankets in even layers. The blankets are
then subjected to a thorough rinse and then inspected
Steel bumpers by workers under high intensity lighting.
Steel bumpers [9] have many advantages such as their
relatively high load carrying capacity and high Plastics are then pressure-injected via machinery into
ductility. However, this gives a low strength-to-weight various moulds, these machines then fast harden the
ratio. Car manufacturers have stated that using steel plastic using flash-freezing thus producing plastic
adds to the aesthetic as well as minimizes life cycle components which are then added to the blankets.
costs. One of these plastic parts is the step pad that covers
the topside of the rear. Once in place, workers then
Dimensions and Properties of existing steel attach built-in hitch steal and steel mounting
Bumpers brackets, these add to the structural integrity of the
The table below gives an overview of the dimensional bumper.
properties of a chromium coated steel bumper
currently use Front bumpers have plastic trims which hang down
slightly below the bumper helping to direct the air
Table 1: Details of an already existing steel bumper flow to the engine compartment due to their
aerodynamic shape.
Effective length 0.975m
Total length 2.055m Four steel reinforcement brackets are used to attach
Thickness 0.002m the bumper to the car’s frames before the licence
Effective breath 0.078m plate holder and fog lamps are inserted and bolted in.
Total breath 0.172m All the bolts are set to specific tightness coefficient to
Weight 5.16kg ensure the bumper and its mounting brackets will
Tensile strength 460 MPa
adequately absorb the force of a Collison.
Density 7800 kg/m3
Cost $3600
Composite Bumper
In recent years, the automotive industry has advanced
The production of steel bumpers a great deal and composite materials have played a
2mm thick steel sheets known as ‘blankets’ are fed large role in this revolution. Various composite
through a series of dyes (7-8), depending on the materials have been experimented on in most parts of
bumper model. Each dye stamps the blanket to a cars.
particular shape using roughly 2000 tons of force. This
progressively forms the blanket into the final bumper Manufacturers fill polymers with particles in a bid to
shape. Both front and rear bumpers go through the improve the toughness and stiffness of the materials,
same process, the only difference being the dye used as a means of enhancing their barrier properties as
on each. The newly shaped blankets then travel via well as enhancing their resistance to fire ignition, or
conveyor belt to the next phase of production where simply to reduce costs. The addition of particulate
workers then clamp each blanket unto a specially fillers can lead to drawbacks such as brittle or opaque
designed cart. At this point the blankets are passed composites.
through a series of buffing wheels and then This has led to the production of a new type of
submerged in several cleaning tanks to remove any composites known as nanocomposites. These
residue left on it. The blankets are then further composites are particle-filled polymers which have at
inspected after which they undergo a plating regime. least one dimension of dispersed particles in the
Ensuring no defect is present on the blanket is nanometre range. They are distinguishable based on
paramount because the plating process magnifies how many dimensions of dispersed particles are in
even the smallest of blemishes. The first process their nanometre range, for example a nanocomposite
involves applying a coat on nickel to the blanket to with three dimensions in the nanometre range is
protect it from corrosion, after which a chrome layer known as an isodimentional nanoparticle, such as
spherical silica nanoparticles obtained by in situ sol- The C in C-glass stands for corrosion. It is designed to
gel method [10] [11] or by polymerization directly on have an improved surface finish with a high resistance
their surface [12]. Amongst all the possible to corrosion.
nanocomposite precursors, clay-based and layered
In D-glass, the D stands for the dielectric which is used
silicates have been subjected to more rigorous
for applications requiring low electric constants.
investigation, this is likely due to the availability of the
clay material and their chemistry already being Advantages of Glass Fibres
extensively known. Glass fibres are most widely used as reinforcements
for composites due to the following advantages:
Due to the reduction in weight, some manufacturers
prefer composite materials over their steel  Easy to fabricate,
counterpart. Some key advantages include:  Molten glass can be easily drawn into high-
strength fibres,
 Absorbs more collision energy,
 Relatively strong fibres produce very high
 Easier to achieve smooth aerodynamic
strength in its composite form.
profiles for drag reduction,
 Outstanding resistance to corrosion, Epoxy resin
 High impact resistance, These are low molecular weight organic liquids which
 Rapid response to induced or released stress, contain epoxide groups. Epoxides have 1 oxygen and
 Reduction of part count and production cost. 2 carbon atoms in its rings and are formed by most
reactions between epichlorohydrin and aromatic
Composite materials used amines. Hardeners, plasticizers and fillers can be
Glass fibres added to produce epoxies with wide ranges of
Fibre reinforced plastics combine the strength and properties from viscosity to impact. Even with its high
stiffness of fibrous materials. Materials produced cost when compared to other polymer matrices, its
through this means possess very high resistance to popularity overshadows the rest. The main reasons
corrosion, low density and easy moulding capability. are:
Majority of reinforced plastics produced recently are
either polyester resins or glass reinforced epoxy. Glass  Availability and diversity,
fibres make good reinforcing agents, due to the  Good compatibility with glass fibres,
relative ease at which high strength can be obtained  High strength,
in using a few microns in diameter.  Low viscosity.

Epoxy resin is more expensive than aluminium and


Properties of Glass Fibres steel, roughly retails at $1 to $10 per pound. With
The properties of glass fibres are: glass fibres starting at around $1 they are price-
competitive with aluminium and steel only when
 Corrosion resistance, being used in small quantities. Also, production of
 Electrical properties, these materials one a large-scale (i.e. volumes of at
 Resistance to impact, least 30,000 units per year) requires large investments
 Low density, in technology.
 Specific strength.
Design of a composite bumper
Types of Glass Fibres For the design of a composite bumper two cases will
The most commonly used glass fibres are E-glass, S- be considered: one involving nylon-6; a
glass, C-glass and D-glass. E-glass stands for electrical nanocomposite designed by Toyota; and a recycled
glass as it was designed for electrical applications, E- polyethylene/palm kernel shell-iron filings (CPKS)
glass fibres are high quality glass fibres used for composite manufactured by students at the Ahmadu
standard reinforcement for resin systems which Bello University Zaria, Nigeria.
comply with the necessary mechanical properties.

The S in S-glass stands for high silica content. It retains


its strength at high temperatures and has high fatigue
strength. It is largely used in aerospace applications.
Recycled Polyethylene/palm kernel shell-iron Raw palm kernel shells (PKS) were sourced from local
filings composite palm oil processing plants; the shells were heated in a
A project carried out by the research students at the furnace to about 800°C turning it into carbon ash
department of mechanical engineering Ahmadu Bello using a process known as ashing. The ash was then
University in Zaria, Nigeria, produced a new sieved to remove unwanted contaminants. This was
composite material with properties suitable for car done in order to remove most of the moisture in the
bumper manufacturing. A matrix made up of empty shell whilst retaining its carbon content.
water sachets was reinforced using carbonized palm
kernel shell particulates (CPKS) and iron fillings, using
a percentage composition of 5 wt%1 for iron fillings
with CPKS varied from 5-20 wt% at 5% intervals. The
physical and mechanical properties of the composite
were tested alongside current bumper materials
samples.

Empty water sachets, CPKS and iron fillings are all


Figure 2: Palm Kernel Ash Figure 3: Iron Filings [15]
classed as waste products in Nigeria and as such pose particulate [15]
huge environmental challenges. Research into
composite material production using palm kernel shell The iron fillings were gathered and sieved. The iron
(PKS) had already been ongoing with varying results fillings, carbonised palm kernel shell and polyethylene
[13] [14]. were compounded into a two roll mill at a
temperature of 130°C forming a homogeneous
Materials AND METHOD
mixture. 400g of each composition was compounded
The manufactured composite was made out of
and labelled.
recycled low density polyethylene, CPKS and iron
fillings. Pre-analysis were carried out on each In a 150 nm sized square mould, the mixture was
material, with the aid of a PW 00 X-ray spectrometer, placed and subjected to a pressing pressure of
an x-ray fluorescence test was carried out on the CPKS 0.4MN/m2 until they cured, the temperature of each
after which the CPKS were ground into powder form plate was kept at 150°C during this process, at the end
and weighted and a binder was then added to the of each press cycle the boards were removed from
sample, which subsequently mixed and pressed into their moulds and left to cool before being cut into
pellets. Next, the tensile strength of the RLDP was separate pieces for characterization. This process is
recorded. known as pressing and it serves to increase the
compatibility for the material.
Table 2 below displays the percentage composition by
weight for the RLDP and the CPKS. The physical and mechanical aspects of the material
Table 2: Formulation of Carbon Material [15]
were studied using a range of tests and compared to
that of three prominent conventional car bumpers in
S/n Carbonized Iron RLDP Sample Nigeria
Palm Kernel Filings (wt %) Label
(wt %) Stress-strain properties
1 0 5 100 CPKS 0 The tensile strength indicates the compounds ability
2 5 5 90 CPKS 5 to withstand forces that pull it apart as well as its
3 10 5 85 CPKS 10 stress before break point; tensile tests were
4 15 5 80 CPKS 15 performed using a Hounsfield tensiometer, with a
5 20 5 75 CPKS 20 maximum load of 250 KN. After measuring the
ultimate tensile strength, breaking stress, tensile
modulus and percentage elongation of all composite
The iron fillings percentage was kept constant due to
and conventional car bumper types, the composite
results from previous research noting this as an
bumpers failed to surpass their conventional
optimal amount.
counterparts (See appendix figure 7-13). The
conventional samples had tensile strengths ranging
from 10.08 to 14.92 N/mm2 compared to the
1
composite materials who’s highest was 7.94 N/mm2.
Wt%- mass fraction
The tensile modulus for the composite material
increases to a peak value of 29.92 N/mm2 at 15 wt%
of CPKS, which then fell when more particulates was
introduced. The introduction of reinforcement also
resulted in a reduction of percentage elongation of
the composite material; this can be attributed to the
presence of two hard and brittle phases in the matrix.

Hardness properties
The hardness properties were measured at room
temperature and recorded. The data shows an Figure 4: Schematic illustration for synthesis of Nylon-6/clay [20]
increase in hardness number in relation with the
increase in percentage composition of reinforcement
(see appendix figure 12); this can be attributed to the
percentage of hard and brittle phases of the ceramic
body in the polymer matrix. The large variation of
hardness number of the composite materials is as a
result of the distribution of the reinforcements in the
matrix and can be solved by ensuring a more uniform
distribution of reinforcements in the matrix.

Impact Properties
A reduction in the composites’ impact energy was
noted as the concentration of CPKS increased. This is
largely due to the reduction in elasticity of the
material due to the addition of particles which reduce
the deformability of the matrix, thereby reducing the
matrix ability to absorb impact energy. Figure 5: Formation of Nylon-6 Nanocomposite by situ
polymerisation [21]
Nylon-6
Toyota Central Research Laboratory first reported
their work on Nylon-6 in the early 1990’s [16] [17]. It As shown in the figure above, sodium montmorillonite
was reported that small amounts of Nano-filler is mixed with an aminolauric acid in an aqueous
loading, results in a pronounced improvement in hydrochloric acid to protonate the aminolauric acid
thermal and mechanical properties. which then exchanges with the sodium counter ions.
Alkyl units of the resulting organ clay have terminal
The properties of Nylon-6 is not only a factor of its
carboxyl groups. Under certain conditions, these
individual parent components i.e. Nano-filler and
carboxyl groups initiate ring-opening polymerization
nylon, but also its morphology and characteristics
of caprolactam forming nylon-6 chains which are
[18].
ionically bonded to the alum inosilicate platelets.
Materials and Method Driven by the free energy from the polymerization,
Under appropriate thermodynamic interactions, the chains grow forcing the platelets apart until
polymers can spontaneously intercalate the galleries exfoliation is accomplished. According to a report
of organ clays. However the static diffusion cannot written by a team from the chemical engineering
lead to full exfoliation [19]. Toyota disclosed an department of Texas Materials institute,
improved method for producing nylon-6/Clay nanocomposites would have been more widely used if
nanocomposites using an in situ polymerization that they could be formed from existing polymers using
exfoliates the alum inosilicate layers through a conventional melt processing techniques such as
chemical mechanism. The Toyota process can be seen injection moulding and extrusion [21].
in figure 5 below. Also shown below in figure 4 is the
Schematic illustration for synthesis of Nylon-6/C lay.
Stress-strain properties Effect of clay on nylon-6 crystallization
One notable benefit of adding high aspect ratio, Nano Isothermal crystallization studies at 197°C shows that
scale platelets to the polymer is the increase in small crystal platelets act as nucleating agents for
modulus per unit mass of reinforcement. This results crystallization for the nylon-6 matrix. At this
in the material demonstrating higher strength, temperature, the crystallization half-life, 𝑡1⁄ is
2
hardness and scratch resistance [21], as well as a normalized by that of the extruded matrix polymer
sizably increased stress at break. This is explained without any clay. This property is of particular
using the presence of polar and ionic interactions commercial interest. While clay increases the number
between the polymers and its layers. Figure 13 show nuclei, high clay loading retards polymer crystal
the relationship between modulus and molecular growth.
weight of the nylon 6 matrix. The graph shows the
higher level of modulus at given MMT loading. The Summary
stress at break was found to be sizably strong. A car This research work has reviewed two key composite
bumpers ability to function at relatively high stress materials along with their various production routes,
and strain conditions is essential; and the stress-strain advantages and disadvantages. In the case of the Palm
properties of nylon-6 make it a good choice. kernel Shell-Iron filing composite, it was noted that
most of the composite materials’ mechanical
Thermal expansion Behaviour properties were lower than that of their conventional
Polymer nanocomposites are expected to have counterparts. In addition, the composite material with
improved thermal expansion properties, while 5wt% of and 10 wt% CPKS were recommended for use
retaining the processing and surface characteristic of in the production of car bumpers due to their high
its matrix owing to the small size and low content of impact energy to density ratios of 0.2 and 0.19
the Nano-filler [21]. Through the use of a high respectively, which puts them close to that of the
resolution transmission electron microscopy (TEM), standard failure mode exhibited during their testing.
the orientation of the clay platelets in the nylon 6 In addition, the materials used are
nanocomposite was viewed. As seen in figure 14, the
platelets are better aligned in the FD axis than their  Environmental impact,
TD counterparts with there being little alignment in  Low costs (roughly a 77.2% reduction); steel
the ND axis. The thermal expansion of the high bumper cost $3600 whilst its CPKS
molecular weight nylon-6 nanocomposites possesses counterpart was valued at $820.
thermal expansion coefficient in the rubbery state on
Nylon-6 nanocomposites present a many possibilities:
par with that of those below the glass state, this
these nanocomposites not only exhibit excellent
improved thermal expansion means deformation in mechanical properties, but also display outstanding
the car bumper due to temperature conditions is kept combination of optical, electrical, thermal, magnetic
as a minimum.
and other physico-chemical properties.
Impact properties One advantage of nanocomposites is that the
The formation of Nylon-6 nanocomposites does not strength, shrinkage, warpage, viscosity and optical
result in significant reduction in the impact properties properties of the polymer matrix are not significantly
of the material, the stiffness and strength of the affected; another advantage is their mechanical,
nanocomposite are greatly improved as the amount electrical, thermal, barrier and mechanical properties
of organo-clay is increased. However, the IZOD2 such as increased tensile strength, improved heat
impact strength is reduced from 20.6 to 18.1 J/m deflection temperature, flame retardant, etc., which.
when 4.7 wt. % of organo-clay is incorporated. This is can be achieved with typically 3-5 wt.% loading.
still a relatively good impact resistance value for low
speed impacts. The impact density ratio values for the However, there are huge limitations in producing
nanocomposite further supports the use of Nylon-6 them, such as costs, processing constraints, oxidative
for the production of car bumpers. More mainstream and thermal instability and unstable market share
bumper materials offer better impact resistance [22].
properties at low and high speed impact conditions.

2
ASTM standard method of determining the impact
resistance of materials.
Appendix

Figure 9:Tensile modulus for the PKS composite material compared


with conventional material [15]
Figure 6:Breaking point for PKS composite material compared with
conventional material [15]

Figure 10:Percentage elongation for the PKS composite material


compared with conventional material [15]

Figure 7:Ultimate tensile strength for the PKS composite material


[15]

Figure 11:Impact strength of PKS compared with conventional


materials [15]

Figure 8:Density of PKS composite materials compared with


conventional materials [15]
Figure 12: Hardness number for PKS composite material [15]

Figure 14:Orientation of clay platelets in nylon-6 nanocomposites


as determined by TEM [21]

Figure 13: Effect of wt% on Modulus [10] [21]


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