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Ford Does A Weird Thing With Graphene

Technology / 19 Comments

Not what anyone really expected...

Ford has just announced it will be the first major automaker to incorporate graphene technology into its vehicles when it integrates the material into the Mustang and F-150 before the end of 2018.

Originally, and still, perhaps, graphene was hailed as the be-all-end-all for electric vehicle technology. Graphene, a one-atom-thick slice of graphite is a remarkable conductor, so instead of holding electricity in a chemical state, like a battery, graphene can be used to create a supercapacitor, which stores energy in an electrical field. Graphene supercapacitors won't degrade like lithium-ion batteries, meaning there's the potential for longer life, but crucially, they are also capable of ultrarapid charging. Like five minutes rapid.

Graphene supercapacitors aren't quite ready for the mainstream as they're currently less power dense than conventional batteries, but Ford has found another use. Turns out, along with being 200 times stronger than steel, and extremely thin and flexible, graphene also acts as an incredible sound barrier. As a result, Ford, in collaboration with Eagle Industries and XG Sciences, has found a way to use small amounts of the material in fuel rail covers, pump covers, and front engine covers to silence the mechanical noises emitting from those parts.

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"The breakthrough here is not in the material, but in how we are using it," said Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader, sustainability and emerging 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."

Ford has been working with the material since 2014 studying its capabilities and how to use them. Generally, reducing noise inside vehicle cabins means adding more material, but graphene solves that. The graphene is mixed in with foam carriers, and reportedly yields a 17 percent reduction in noise, a 20 percent improvement in mechanical properties and a 30 percent improvement in heat resistance properties, compared to the same foam used without graphene.