The Automotive industry is widely viewed as being the industry in which the greatest volume of advanced composite materials will be used in the future to produce light vehicles. However, due to the trade-off between light vehicles and safety standards, new directions need to be adopted to overcome safety issues.
Several attempts have been made to strengthen the vehicle’s structure to enhance its crashworthiness, however, safety issues remain the main obstacle to producing lighter and greener cars. Therefore, in this project, a novel graphene-based polymer material will be investigated, modelled, and designed to enhance both vehicle and occupant safety; yet remain very light. This material will provide benefits such as improved strength, dimensional stability, and superior durability.
A pioneering research project to develop lighter, stronger, more energy-efficient, and safe vehicles using ‘wonder material’ Graphene, is being led by the University of Sunderland and could potentially revolutionise the global automotive industry. The University of Sunderland, working with a consortium of five research partners from Italy Spain and Germany, was one of those selected as a partner for their iGCAuto proposal.
Professor Ahmed Elmarakbi, a previous Professor of Automotive Engineering at the University of Sunderland initiated the idea and wrote the Graphene Flagship proposal and will drive the project forward.
He said: “Graphene has tremendous applications for the automotive industry and using it to enhance the composite materials in cars has so much potential. It’s an honour for the University of Sunderland to lead on a project that has been recognised though the Graphene Flagship Competitive Call, which reinforces our reputation as a leading group in international research in automotive, manufacturing and ultra-low carbon vehicle technology.”
He added: “The global automotive industry is currently facing great challenges, such as CO2 emissions and safety issues. The development and manufacture of environmentally-friendly, energy-efficient, and safe vehicles (EESVs) is a great solution to these challenges. Our goal is that the future EESVs is achieved by a combination of novel materials concepts with safety design approaches through the development and optimisation of advanced ultra-light graphene-based polymer materials, efficient fabrication and manufacturing processes, and life-cycle analysis (LCA) to reduce the environmental impact of the vehicle.
“The development of novel graphene-based materials and their potential applications in the automotive industry are the main focus of the iGCAuto project. Using graphene-based materials in the fabrication of nanocomposites with different polymer matrices will be investigated, modelled, and designed to enhance both vehicle and occupant safety; yet remain very light. This material will provide benefits such as improved strength, dimensional stability and better thermal behaviour, better flame behaviour (active as flame retardant and for reducing the emission of smoke), and superior durability.