ERJ has compiled a series of innovative designs and applications for rubber materials announced during 2021. Readers can help select the most exciting development of the year by emailing their choice(s) with comments to the ERJ editor by 21 Dec.
Wireless battery charging
Hutchinson SA has partnered with the Israeli start-up Electreon to advance a new wireless battery charging system for electric vehicles. Electreon Wireless provides a ‘shared energy platform’ which charges electric vehicles ‘on the go’ through a complete wireless electric road system. The system involves under-road units of copper coils which transfer the energy from the electricity grid to the roads and approaching vehicles.
“Bubble casting” to create soft robotics
Researchers at Princeton University have developed “bubble casting”, a new way to make soft robots using "fancy balloons" that change shape in predictable ways when inflated with air. By controlling factors such as the thickness of the elastomer coating the mould, how quickly the elastomer settles to the bottom and how long it takes to cure, the researchers claim they can dictate how the resulting actuator will move. So far, the researchers have successfully cast star-shaped "hands" that gently grip a blackberry, a coil that contracts like a muscle and a set of "fingers" that curl up one by one as the entire system is inflated. They next aim to use the system to create more complex actuators and explore new applications.
Airbag protects pedestrians
Toyoda Gosei Co. has developed an airbag to protect the head of a pedestrian hit by a vehicle. The airbag covers the rigid parts of the vehicle, such as the front pillars, where the likelihood of fatal injury is the highest. The internal pressure is adjusted via special valves to the optimum level for each part of the vehicle covered, mitigating impacts to the head. The airbags are already being used on the Subaru Legacy Outback models in Japan.
Intelligent anti-trap sealing systems
Huebner Group has extended its intelligent anti-trap door sealing systems and adapted its production processes so that the new SensIQ product family can be used for a wide range of protective profiles. The EPDM SensIQ safety device can be integrated into finger protection profiles in vehicle doors, particularly on buses and trains. When a person or object comes in contact with the safety contact strip, a switching pulse is generated that causes the door to remain open. Read more
Materials advance in printed electronics
Continental has advanced printed electronics on plastic and rubber materials at its new centre for functional printing technologies in Freiburg, in the southwestern state of Baden-Wurttemberg. Developments include “sensIC” which uses printed elastomer sensor technology in hose lines for the thermal management of electric vehicle batteries. Conti also envisages applications for the technology in air springs, belts, conveyor belts and tires. Read more
Silicone for vegan vehicles
Dow in partnership with Chinese electronic vehicle company Human Horizons, has developed a silicone rubber-based leather as a vegan alternative for automotive upholstery. Based on Dow’s “advanced liquid silicone rubber technology” the material is said to offer moisture permeability, stain-resistance, soft-touch haptics and strong weatherability. To feature in the Human Horizon's super SUV, HiPhi X, it also eliminates issues around odour and VOC emissions. The product can also be used in marine, aviation, medical science and furnishing applications. Read more
On the starting block
Michelin and a US footwear start-up Speedland have introduced “a unique and customisable” running shoe. The SL:PDX uses Michelin's cuttable blocks technology, allowing runners to “customise” the sole for their performance, safety and comfort requirements. Furthermore, Michelin's ‘fiberlite technology’ for fibre-reinforced rubber has been employed in the soles to provide strength, stability, flexibility and lightness. Each layer can be easily separated and recycled and some components are replacable to further extend product life. Read more
TPEs for therapy ball
Hexpol TPE has collaborated with Icho Systems GmbH to develop an interactive ‘therapy ball’ employing thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) materials. Designed to react with coloured lights, vibrations, sound or music, the Ichó ball is adaptable to the needs of people with conditions such as dementia and autism. Read more
High hopes for new sealing material
Freudenberg Sealing Technologies has begun manufacturing seals made from a new EPDM material, which is claimed to address hydraulic seal leakage at high altitudes and low temperatures. The 80 EPDM 426288 grade features a “breakthrough formulation” that enables hydraulic sealing systems to operate at temperatures as low as -65°C, FST said 6 July. Based on a “unique polymer”, which does not require the use of large amounts of plasticisers, the EPDM material is said to meet the rigorous requirements of the new AMS7361 spec for improved low-temperature behaviour in commercial aircraft hydraulic systems.. Read more
Smart soles on course
Toyoda Gosei has developed “smart insoles” with embedded e-Rubber sensors that can obtain foot pressure data during movement. The insole is being trialed by a Japanese golf school, which has been receiving samples since the start of June, said Toyoda Gosei 15 June. The “light and durable” insoles can detect and measure subtle changes in foot pressure with high accuracy, helped by e-Rubber which acts as a thin, flexible sensor. TG’s patented e-Rubber is a “next-generation rubber” that contracts with the application of voltage... Read more
Soft robot arms
Researchers at Saarland University are developing soft robot arms employing a smart ‘dielectric elastomer’ composite. When a voltage is applied, electrodes printed onto both sides of the material attract each other, compressing the polymer so that it contracts and relaxes like muscle tissue. By precisely varying the electric field, the elastomer can execute continuously variable flexing motions or even remain still in a desired position. By combining a large number of these ‘small muscles’, a flexible robot arm can move freely in ‘almost any direction... Read more
Researchers at the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) have developed a technology to achieve a stretchable electronic device with high elongation. The SAIT researchers replaced the plastic material used in existing stretchable displays with an elastomer, to overcome the limitations of the devices. The team was able to integrate a stretchable organic LED (OLED) display and a photoplethysmography (PPG) sensor in a single device to measure and display the user’s heart rate in real-time, thus creating the ‘stretchable electronic skin’ form factor... Read more