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Silica Science on the Road

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Cars, trucks, and other motor vehicles are such an ordinary part of modern life that we may take them for granted. Have you ever thought about all the incredible science and engineering that goes into automotive machinery? At W. R. Grace & Co., we apply silica science to develop materials that help automotive parts manufacturers optimize vehicles’ durability, sustainability and performance. Learn more about how silica is being used in the automotive industry.

High-Performance Rubber

Rubber might seem like a simple material, but considerable thought goes into every rubber component. The composition of this material plays a crucial role in the safety and performance of the vehicle. For example, tires made from soft rubber offer good grip but have a higher rolling resistance, which means it is more energy-intensive to spin the tires, reducing the vehicle’s speed and fuel economy.

How can manufacturers achieve a perfect balance of performance and control in their tires? Grace’s PERKASIL® precipitated silica is one of the secret ingredients. It enhances the tire’s hardness without compromising grip, leading to tires that offer control and performance.

While tires are the most conspicuous use of rubber in motor vehicles, there is plenty more rubber hiding under the hood. O-rings, electrical insulation, shock absorbers, hydraulic hoses and more all rely on different varieties of rubber to perform their function as intended. When these rubber parts are exposed to high heat during the vehicle’s operation, it leads to stress and damage. PERKASIL precipitated silica works to harden technical rubber components to increase their durability while maintaining performance.

Protective Paint

While a car’s exterior body paint may seem to be just about aesthetics, there is more than meets the eye. The glossy coating also protects cars from corrosion, preventing rust that compromises the strength and safety of the body panels.

Automotive paint is more complex than the paint you would use in your house. It combines many specialized coatings that work in unison to shield the metal body from water and oxygen. Grace’s silica products can be found in almost every layer, including:

●      SYLOID® used in the clear topcoat and basecoat

●      LUDOX® colloidal silica found in anti-corrosion coating

●      SHIELDEX® anti-corrosive pigments used in automobile refinish formulations

Together, these layers, produced with Grace silica, prevent rust and ensure your car is safe and blemish-free.

Cleaning Exhaust with Catalytic Converters

Unfiltered engine exhaust is highly hazardous to the environment. It contains gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, which are considered factors contributing to climate change and negative air quality. Catalytic converters are used to clean this exhaust, reducing the level of these gases before they leave a car’s tailpipe.

One of the challenges of designing catalytic converters is managing their operating temperatures, some as high as 650 oC (1200 oF). The metal catalyst used to clean the exhaust must be held by a material that allows gases to pass through without breaking down due to the heat. LUDOX® colloidal silica bonds the metal oxides to create an interconnected structure that stays strong even under extreme temperatures.

Accelerating Innovation with Silica

From enhancing tire performance to protecting car paint and cleaning exhaust, silica is a crucial component of modern automotive technology. Grace’s silica-based materials support high performance and sustainability across a wide variety of vehicle parts and components.

View the infographic to learn more about how Grace’s silica products are utilized across the exterior, interior and underbody of vehicles.