New Composite for Safer Collisions
Splintering in conventional composite materials. Photo: W. R. Howell.
The switch from steel to lighter, more complex composites in automobiles has resulted in higher fuel efficiencies. However, these materials have demonstrated an imperfect response to collisions, resulting in sharp, splintered fragments that can increase occupant injury—as opposed to the ideal crumpled mass that adds a protective layer of reinforcement.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology (ICT) have recently developed a new type of thermoplastic-fiber composite that is lightweight and non-splintering. In the event of a collision, the new material undergoes viscoelastic deformation without fragmentation. Moreover, the researchers claim the new technology will be half the cost of thermoset composites currently in use.