BASF is developing more foams to help automakers enhance occupant safety and make vehicles quieter and more comfortable.
Under the premise that foam absorbs energy, the German chemical producer is pursuing uses for polyurethane foam in vehicle bumpers, with the added lightweight material able to soak up 20 to 30 percent of the impact of a collision. Instead of the full force of a hit moving directly to an occupant, the energy would diminish as it crushes the foam.
BASF is exploring ways that foam can better protect passengers' heads and bodies in a collision, said Jeffrey Hagar, market segment manager for automotive interiors for the company's Performance Materials Division.
"Encapsulating a vehicle's roll bar with energy-absorbing polyurethane foam, for example, can add a barrier between the occupant and the vehicle's metal, minimizing damage," Hagar said.
BASF also sees a use for polyurethane foam in body manufacturing. The company's Elasto- flex line of foams can be injected into a vehicle's body-in-white structure as it comes together, quickly expanding to fill cavities in pillars and around sills to reduce noise and vibration.
Selecting the right volume of the foam injection can be adjusted easily as automakers fine-tune design decisions during vehicle development, or even to accommodate different models that are introduced into assembly. One of the products, Elastoflex W, is a soft foam that can be customized for various uses within the same vehicle, providing different densities depending on whether it is going into seats, armrests or backrests.
The foam also has potential uses in providing thermal insulation for EVs, to help capture wasted energy and reuse it for air conditioning or battery efficiency.