Ford has revealed it is to use graphene – a two-dimensional nanomaterial – in vehicle parts.
Dubbed a “miracle material” by some, 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. While not economically viable for all applications, Ford, in collaboration with Eagle Industries and XG Sciences, says it has found a way to use small amounts in fuel rail covers, pump covers and front engine covers to maximise 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. Generally, the company says, 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 foam constituents, and tests done by Ford and suppliers has shown about a 17 per cent reduction in noise, a 20 per cent improvement in mechanical properties and a 30 per cent improvement in heat endurance properties, compared with that of the foam used without graphene.
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.