Traverse City, Mich. — Steel, aluminum and plastics suppliers to the auto industry typically compete for real estate on future cars. But even the most ardent backers of individual materials admit that the future really lies in multi-material vehicles.
The problem is how to join high strength steel to aluminum alloys or aluminum to composite or composite to steel without adding weight or using adhesives that make it hard to separate those parts at the end of vehicle life to make it easier to recycle.
Researchers at Michigan State University supported by the American Chemistry Council's automotive group believe they are on the path of a new kind of adhesive that will join multiple materials and can also be cleanly separated at the end of vehicle, but also be repaired in a way that will make that joint stronger.
The adhesive is a thermoplastic enhanced with nano-magnetic particles, which can be heated in the assembly plant and bond different kinds of plastic, different types of metals or metals and plastic without the need for additional rivets or connectors.
Sanda McClelland, a chair for the ACC's automotive team and business development for Solvay SA, said that the bond can also be reversed, which allows for ease of recycling at the end of vehicle life, and easier repair.
“The vehicles of today and tomorrow will be manufactured with a combination of energy-saving materials,” McClelland said at the Center for Automotive Research's Management Briefing Seminars July 31 in Traverse City. “Multi-material solutions are and will provide OEMs and consumers with the best possible choices for performance, safety, aesthetics and value. All materials are in play.”
The research still is in the laboratory testing phase now, but signs are strong for its potential in real-world situations, McClelland said.