Diisocyanates (DII) are used to make many types of polyurethane (PU) products found throughout your automobile. DII chemistry makes many of the features you enjoy in your vehicle possible. Not only do polyurethanes help enhance automobile design, they help make vehicles stronger, lighter, safer and more comfortable.
How Does DII Chemistry Contribute?
Many of the vehicle parts typically made with polyurethane products, which rely on DII chemistry, contribute to a more enjoyable ride. Some examples include supportive seating made with foam, armrests, headrests, acoustic insulation for a quieter ride, cup holders, and “soft touch” PU coatings on interior components, like the instrument panel. The steering wheel, gear shift knob, car floor, carpet underlay and interior coatings can also use polyurethanes to enhance their performance and feel. DII chemistry also contributes to many of the functional needs of the car, like lightweight door panels, bumpers, exterior panels, coatings and adhesives, cable jacket protection, brake tubes, gaskets, window seals, shock absorbers or spring aids and tire fill for fixing flat tires. If you drive a pick-up truck, there is a good chance that the truck bed liner and tailgate are made with polyurethane products.
With nearly eight million vehicles produced in the United States in 2010,1 PU products continue to play an increasingly important role in the automotive industry and the overall economy. To learn more about where PU–based parts are typically found in a vehicle, please view this diagram.
Making Stronger, Lighter Vehicles
With consumers wanting better fuel efficiency and reduced emissions from their vehicles, there is growing demand for smaller and lighter vehicles that offer safety and comfort.
In 2009, the average vehicle weight fell by 160 lbs. to just over 3,900 lbs. An average, mid-size vehicle in the United States uses about 103 lbs. of polyurethane material, including thermoplastic polyurethane. Studies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demonstrate that a 10 percent reduction in vehicle weight creates a seven percent reduction in fuel consumption. New regulations for passenger vehicles will require a 30 percent decrease in carbon emissions and a 40 percent increase in auto fuel efficiency to 34.1 miles per gallon by 2016.1
This means that weight reduction is a priority among auto makers. DII chemistry, which forms the basis for many types of polyurethane automotive products, is an essential part of the solution.
Fiber reinforced polyurethanes can be used for lighter weight body panels.
Seat frames made from molded PU foams can be 35 percent lighter than metal stamped frames.
Polyurethanes are used in door and head impact areas to absorb energy, helping protect occupants.
About 20-30 lbs. of foam are typically used in seating. Seating foams are on average 50 percent thinner than several years ago, and their designs are constantly improving to offer greater comfort. Thinner seats are not only lighter-weight, but they allow for more head room without raising the roof height of the vehicle.
Rear seats in minivans and SUVs may consist of rigid PU foam encased in molded foam, which allows them to be both lightweight and strong.
Polyurethane “soft-touch” skins help to significantly reduce the weight of instrument panels. These PU skins are also used on door trims, steering wheels, headrests and armrests to protect them from the harsh UV rays of the sun, while offering comfort and quality.
Load floor composites that combine a honeycomb structural matrix with polyurethane can create lighter and stronger parts than many other technologies.
Polyurethane and epoxy systems, which also use DII chemistry, are used in body fascia (e.g. grille, headlamp area) and bumpers due to their good strength-to-weight ratio. These parts are often produced with polyurethanes using the Reaction Injection Molding (RIM) technique.
Polyurethane foam can be used as light-weight technology for attaching wheel cladding to aluminum hubs.
Headliners, carpet underlay and other interior insulating materials continue to be made lighter through polyurethane technology, while also meeting noise reduction requirements expected for a quiet ride.
Diisocyanates—A Vital Role in the Future of Automobile Design
As the automotive industry continues to evolve and unveil exciting new cars, you can count on DII chemistry to remain a backbone to the many innovative polyurethane products that will help turn concept cars into reality. So rev up your engine! The chemical industry is working alongside automobile manufacturers worldwide to deliver solutions that car-buyers like you demand.
1 2010 End-Use Market Survey on the Polyurethanes Industry, American Chemistry Council.