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Editor's highlights

The drive to replace metals with lighter plastics and composites continues apace in a variety of industries, and nowhere is this truer than in the production of cars. Driven by increasingly stringent regulations on fuel efficiency and carbon dioxide emissions, automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are working furiously to reduce the weight of their vehicles.

Suppliers like ContiTech Vibration Control are responding with a variety of innovative products. Recently, the company has developed  a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) protective gaiter for premium-class passenger cars, a carbon fibre-reinforced polyamide (PA) and TPU torque clutch, and has worked with chemicals giant BASF to produce glass fibre-reinforced PA transmission crossbeams for Mercedes-Benz's S-Class.

ContiTech Vibration Control's glass fibre-reinforced polyamide transmission crossbeam.

As cycle times for producing composites parts are reduced, so the use of these materials will increase on mainstream cars. Surface Generation has recently unveiled compression moulding technology that it claims can produce composite parts in less than two minutes.

The aerospace industry has been at the vanguard of metal replacement for some time, and is still finding opportunities. Sigma Precision Components has developed composite pipes for Rolls-Royce aero-engines that are 50% lighter than traditional metallic pipe assemblies.

Be sure to follow Performance Materials.net (and our sister site Technical Textiles.net) on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date with these developments and others, including:

an automated method for determining nanotube distribution in epoxy composites;

stretchable tin oxide nanostructures synthesized using a flame-based thermal oxidation process;

thermoplastics that resist chemical attack from hospital disinfectants;

a ceramic matrix composite part flying on a jetliner in commercial service for the first time.

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Latest Features

While there is a lot of publicity regarding the growing use of carbon fibre in cars(1), the automotive market has a long way to go to catch up with the biggest user of the material—the aerospace and defence sector. Joining our team of regular contributors, Composites Editor Amanda Jacob summarizes the findings of the latest report on the global markets for carbon fibre and carbon composites.

Glass and other speciality fibres, such as aramids, have been used for many years as reinforcements for composites. Carbon fibre, however, is now very much the focus of the industry, particularly  for automotive end-uses, according to Adrian Wilson.

Wherever their sustainable advantages and low cost can be combined with the required performance, there is a compelling case for the use of natural fibres in composites, according to Adrian Wilson.