Bayer MaterialScience develops sustainable solutions for mobility concepts

Bayer MaterialScience develops sustainable solutions for mobility concepts
Bayer MaterialScience is exhibiting a wide range of solutions for global challenges at PLAST 2012 in Milan, Italy.

One main topic is increasing mobility, which has its origins not least in advancing urbanization. At the same time, the necessity of saving fuel to conserve fossil resources, protect the climate and help drivers save money is becoming greater. Together with customers and other partners along the added-value chain, Bayer MaterialScience is working on sustainable developments for future mobility concepts.

The demand for lightweight designs in the automotive industry is at an all-time high, the aim being to cut fuel consumption, costs and CO2 emissions. Makrolon-brand polycarbonates tailored to this application have already proven effective in transparent glazing solutions for production vehicles. Current trends include roof modules and panoramic roofs all the way to design solutions for complete modules, such as rear hatches. Compared to conventional glass technology, the weight of such components can be reduced by as much as 50 percent. Bayer MaterialScience also markets Bayblend polycarbonate blends for bodywork parts that can be painted the same color as the vehicle.

Apart from weight reduction, the good thermal insulation properties of polycarbonate compared to glass are also a factor. Because the material’s thermal conductivity is five times lower, less energy is required to heat the cabin. This is not an issue in vehicles with a combustion engine, because they produce more than enough heat when running. The situation is different, however, in electric cars, because the battery must additionally supply energy to heat the interior, which has a direct impact on vehicle range. Polycarbonate glazing is a good thermal insulator and can therefore contribute to improving energy efficiency in the interior.

The need to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions is spurring the development of alternative drive technologies. One example is electric mobility, which could eliminate the use of fossil fuels entirely. Polycarbonate blends such as Bayblend® can offer advantages when it comes to the battery enclosure. Because battery output may be limited in winter by the lower temperatures, the good thermal insulating capacity of polycarbonate can be exploited to improve the function of the battery and thus the range of the car. Plastic has a clear advantage over metal housings in terms of weight, while still offering high mechanical stability. Furthermore, suitable flameproofing of the polycarbonate blend reduces the risk of fire for the battery, particularly in hybrid vehicles.

The continued advancement of electric mobility depends not only on the efficient design and equipping of electric cars, but also on the establishment of a suitable infrastructure. The Dutch company EV-Box, for instance, manufactures charging stations of the same name with a housing made of a halogen-free, flame retardant grade of Bayblend polycarbonate blend. The material offers extensive design freedom and resists vandalism and other mechanical stresses. Additional factors in favor of the heat-resistant material are that it allows the charging stations to be produced in large volumes much more cost-effectively than when using metal, and it does not disrupt wireless communication between the driver and charging station.

Polycarbonate also plays an important role in automotive lighting. Special Makrolon grades with very high optical transparency were developed for use in headlamp lenses and diffuser panels. The transparency improves luminous efficiency and helps save energy. Modern LED technologies are not only 70 percent more energy-efficient than conventional incandescent bulbs, they also offer greater flexibility, particularly in cars. Modern control systems make it possible to illuminate specific areas, such as when cornering, which is a clear advantage for passenger safety.

Thanks to polycarbonate’s extensive design freedom, auto manufacturers can design uniquely shaped headlamp covers and lenses to differentiate themselves from the competition. As part of its special support services for lens manufacturing, Bayer MaterialScience assists customers with multilayer injection molding and other steps. This also applies to street lamps, in which the lenses focus the cone of light so that it falls precisely on the desired spot on the street below to increase pedestrian and traffic safety. Under the name Apec, Bayer MaterialScience markets highly heat-resistant polycarbonate grades capable of withstanding the very high temperatures generated by continuous lamp operation.