How much do you know about composite materials? You may not know what or why they even exist. However, composite materials have probably infiltrated some aspect of your daily life at some point, manifesting themselves in building materials that support the things you use on a daily basis, including your car.
In short, a composite material is a material made from two or more different materials. When these two materials are combined, they are stronger than their individual counterparts. Think of it as when Goku and Vegeta fuse to create the overly powerful Gogeta in the latest Dragon Ball Super movie.
From aircraft to your car, composite materials have a host of benefits for both the end user and manufactures.
What are Composites?
Composite materials allow engineers to adjust the formulation to meet specific strength requirements of any application. In short by combining specific materials and adjusting them, composite materials can be tailored to any vehicle.
As mentioned by BBC's Bitesize, "The materials for a composite material are chosen because they have different properties that combine to make a more useful material. Steel-reinforced concrete is a composite material. It is made by pouring concrete around a mesh of steel cables."
Also known as Fiber-Reinforced Polymer composites are made from a polymer matrix that is reinforced with an engineered, human-made or natural fiber. Think of carbon fiber, concrete, or even aramid fiber.
Say you want to build the ultimate sports car; something that is sleek, strong, fuel efficient and obviously fast. You would use composites to ensure your vehicle is safe, but also light and fuel efficient.
However, the benefits of using composites in the automotive industry do not end there. Here is everything you need to know about using composites in the automotive industry.
Composite Materials Tend to Be Lightweight
The weight of a vehicle affects not only the performance of a car but also impacts its, fuel efficiency. Composites are light weight compare to other more common materials, like wood and metals. Lightweight cars can take on bad roads, safer, and can be stronger, all thanks to composites.
Composites Are Corrosion Resistant
Composite materials tend to protect your vehicle from any short term corrosion. Composites tend to be very resistant to the harsh chemicals that can eat away at your car over time. Because of their unique properties and freedom for manipulation, composites can resist even some of the harshest external elements.
Though it is possible to create conductive composites. Most composites used in vehicles are non-conductive, meaning they do not conduct electricity. Alongside safety concerns, non-conductive composites help engineers with the inner-workings of a vehicle.
Though composites tend to be lighter than its counterparts, it does not mean that the material is weaker by any means. In fact, this is a misconception.
Composites can be designed to be far stronger than aluminum and steel. Composites can be even designed to be strong in specific areas or in specific directions.
Composites Have High Dimensional Stability
Unlike some of the more common materials associated with the automotive industry, composites retain their shape at high temperatures or when experiencing extreme wet or dry elements.
Strength Related to Weight
One of the biggest reasons manufacturers are happy to use composites is because of the strength to weight ratio of most composites.
As mentioned above, composites can be designed to be both strong and light, making them an excellent choice in the manufacturing of highly specialized vehicles and commercial vehicles.
Carbon fiber is an excellent example of a material that is consistently used across the automotive industry because of the material’s strength and lightness.
Composites Have High Impact Strength
Kevlar is another common composite across the world. If anything, this bullet stopping material has the ability to absorb tremendous energy. From military vehicles to your everyday cars, composites help keep you safe each day, protecting you from collisions.
Composites Are Durable
As already hinted above, composites are made to be very durable and tend to have very long lives. Think of the older vehicles, that have been around for a while but yet still look very new and function relatively well. Many composites are still in service, even after half a century.
Car engineers can use composites to fit almost any design language because of the material's flexibility.
Composites can be molded into complicated shapes more easily than most other materials, making the lives of car manufacturers much easier. Composite materials like glass fiber reinforced plastic are molded and shaped for high-performance automobiles and sports cars.