Insights from industry

The Role of Nanomaterials in the Automotive Industry

In this interview, Dr. Aphrodite Tomou, Technical Manager at Goodfellow, talks to AZoM and explains why Nanomaterials are superior in comparison to other conventional materials for the automotive industry.


Nanomaterials are superior properties in comparison to conventional materials used in the automotive industry. Tell us about some of the nanomaterials Goodfellow are continuing to develop?

Nanomaterials have great advantages, such as a reduction in friction and emission. They also provide lightweight solutions, and they can also protect from wear resistance or UV protection as well.


Goodfellow has a great range of nanomaterials, from metal nanomaterials and nanoparticles - like gold nanoparticles - to carbon nanomaterials and carbon nanotubes such as multi-walled carbon nanotubes, or boron nitride nanotubes, and even graphene.



Image Credit:Shutterstock/welcomia


Nanomaterials are improving efficiency, particularly in the automotive space. When considering fuel consumption in vehicles, how are nanomaterials acting as an energy-saving material?

Nanomaterials have been used in automotive for several years, in both Chrysler and Audi, for example. There is an olefin composite from a nanocomposite that is used in the body, by Chevrolet, without compromising the safety of the car or the passenger safety.

The first automotive company to use graphene nanocomposites was Ford, and they used it in the Mustang and F-150. They used nano-forms of graphene introduced into different parts of the car, for example, in and around the engine, inside the pumps, or in the body of the car.

This was to achieve noise reduction first of all, as well as friction reduction, lightweight purposes, or for impact absorption. All of that means that the car will be lighter, it will have better mechanical properties, and it will also be able to resist corrosion or reduce the friction inside the car.

The resulting parts were characterized by 70 percent noise reduction, were 20 percent stronger, and were also around 30 percent more heat resistant, and the fuel consumption was reduced.


Nanomaterials are improving the efficiency on the oil petroleum production, too. This is because they have a high surface area and that is how they perform better catalysis. Nanomaterials can also be used in a reduction in the consumption of fuels in vehicles or other automotive systems.


Nanomaterials also enable us to reduce fuel consumption through higher combustion efficiency as well as increasing friction efficiency. In addition, we are able to use nanomaterials like nanonets to trap molecules from the engine while the aerosol formation is happening in the engine.


It is also possible to use nanomaterials for lightweight applications. For example, you can use it inside a car in advanced material, advanced polymers, or composites, meaning these materials can be used in the body of the car. Either we have a reduction of noise, or the mechanical properties are better for the body, so it can enhance its impact absorption.


By reducing the weight of the car, then we can achieve lower levels of fuel consumption. As a result, we can achieve environmental awareness and sustainability at the same time.


Image Credit:Shutterstock/ Image Craft


Are there nanomaterials that Goodfellow has developed that can compete with traditional materials and reduce energy consumption in automobiles? How?


Goodfellow holds a great range of nanomaterials. These start from metal nanomaterials like gold nanoparticles that can be used in hydrogen fuel cells. We have graphene, which can be used for lightweight purposes, friction reduction, and in the enhancement of mechanical properties.


We also have multi-walled carbon nanotubes that can replace the electrodes of the hydrogen fuel cells, or they can be used for lightweight purposes. We are able to produce nanomaterials, especially metal nanomaterials and alloyed nanomaterials in different sizes and shapes, which can be very attractive for different applications in automotive, from starting fuel consumption, to the body parts of the cars, or even the exhaust.


Are nanomaterials able to produce the same results as traditional fuels such as diesel and petrol? How?


Adding nanomaterials to liquid petroleum can enhance the thermal and mass transfer inside the liquid and increase the reaction activity of the blended fuel. As a result, the fuel mixture production and combustion processes are improved. By improving the combustion process, then engine emissions will become more efficient. By adding the nanoparticles into liquid fuel, we are providing a better solution that is going to be greener and will be more sustainable for the future.

Nanomaterials can also be used in catalysts. Catalysts will use raw materials to produce fuel along with nanomaterials due to their high surface area. The catalysis will be easier, at a certain temperature, and it will enhance the process as a whole. Because of this, we understand that we can produce fuel from raw material such as simple crude oil, for example, or we can enhance fuel consumption in the car. As a result, we will have lower fuel emissions and probably a greener solution for the environment.

Nowadays, cars can be electric, as we all know, so they are using lithium batteries. Nanomaterials can also be used in this application, too.. For example, carbon nanomaterials like multi-walled carbon nanotubes can replace graphite electrodes inside the lithium batteries, or lithium graphite electrodes in general, to enhance the battery, its lifespan, and its performance.

Another application that nanomaterials can excel in is in hydrogen fuel cells. Hydrogen fuel cells use hydrogen and oxygen, where hydrogen is a gas and oxygen creates water as a by-product. Together, they can produce power and electricity for electric cars.

During this process, there is a catalysis in hydrogen fuel cells and they use platinum roll metal as a catalyst. This roll metal can be replaced by platinum nanoparticles, for example, and due to their high surface area, they can enhance the catalysis and reduce the reaction time.

In addition, hydrogen fuel cells, by using platinum nanoparticles, you can reduce the amount of raw material needed. It not only improves the catalysis reaction, it is also a cost-effective solution, and I think that is very important for both automotives and the industry overall.


Can you tell us about any case studies where Goodfellow materials were used in the automotive industry?


Goodfellow collaborated with the Formula Student Team of Instituto Politécnico in Lisbon. The group had two challenges. One was to improve the chassis monocoque, and they were doing this by using a material that they were not familiar with until we provided the information and suggested the material.


This material was to be used as a Faraday cage, as they wanted to shield the magnetic fields because the car was electric as well. So, all the stainless steel that they were using, that could affect the system and provide electromagnetization to the whole system or even to the driver.


What challenges did the materials used in the case study help to overcome?


To combat the issues with the chassis monocoque, we suggested a copper mess. So, this copper mess was used as a Faraday cage, and it improved the whole chassis monocoque, because every part had to be controlled and had to be attached to the copper mess.


The solution, by providing the copper, was not only in the Faraday cage that we provided, along with the magnetic shielding and electromagnetic fields, but it also helped to provide a better solution for the whole car. If we had not used copper, the team in Lisbon would have had to use cables to attach every single part, which would be a very complex system and it would be very difficult to access any parts of the car.


The other problem that they had was in the shaft. They needed a material that would improve the mechanical properties and would also be robust and able to be attached on the shaft of an electric car. Our challenge was to find the material that would be lightweight and that would be mechanically strong and robust for a Formula One car.


It also needed to be magnetically inert. In general, Formula One cars use stainless steel. However, stainless steel cannot be magnetically inert if the electromagnetic field is applied, which is also affected by the speed that a Formula One car reaches, which is about 20,000 rpms. For this, we provided a titanium rod. The titanium is not only lightweight, but also has a very good ultimate tensile strength compared to the stainless steel, as well as being magnetically inert.


These two solutions that Goodfellow provided improved the performance of the Formula Student Team (FST) car. As a result of our work with them, the team will try to find more ways to collaborate with us, and we will continue to find solutions for their next challenges.

About Dr. Aphrodite Tomou

Aphrodite is the Technical Manager of Goodfellow Cambridge Ltd, a leading global supplier of materials for research, innovation and development in science and industry sectors. Goodfellow has an extensive range of products, which are monitored and enhanced by Aphrodite and her team. Aphrodite has a diverse background and wide-ranging knowledge of materials, from nanomaterials to metals, ceramics and glass.

She holds a PhD and Masters in materials science and engineering, has published several papers in peer-reviewed international journals, and presented at international conferences as an invited speaker. Her team consists of scientists and engineers having expertise in various material areas and processes. Together, Aphrodite and the Technical team assist researchers and engineers, on a day-to-day basis, in finding solutions to even the most challenging of research problems.


Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.


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