Ford will begin using a new material in their vehicles that is both lighter and stronger than carbon fiber.
The new material in question isn’t actually new--it was originally discovered in 1962, but nobody knew what to do with it so it languished in academic papers for decades. It was then rediscovered in 2004 by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester, who then spent years studying the new “miracle material”. They even won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 for their work.
That material is called graphene.
Currently, graphene sees use in technology applications, such as cell phones and semiconductors, but we’re still discovering new uses for this incredible material.
Ford has recently discovered that graphene has multiple applications in vehicles. For the first time in human history, graphene will find its way under the hood of a car (or truck, in Ford’s case) to make a lighter, stronger, and quieter vehicle.
Graphene is both extremely light and extremely strong – about 200 times stronger than steel, and about 20 times stronger than carbon fiber. It can also be machined to be very thin and flexible, and also has conductive properties.
Unfortunately, it’s also very expensive. Don’t expect to see a Ford Mustang with a graphene body any time soon. But Ford has discovered ways to use small amounts in fuel rail covers, pump covers, and front engine covers in order to see maximum benefit.
“The breakthrough here is not in the material, but in how we are using it,” said Debbie Mielewski, Ford’s senior technical leader on new 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.”
That tiny amount goes a long way. Ford has managed to achieve a 17% reduction in noise, 20% improvement in mechanical properties, and 30% better heat endurance by adding it to certain components.
Ford plans to use graphene on 10 components found under the hood of the 2019 Mustang and F-150 pickup by the end of 2018, and start using it in other vehicles starting next year.