VITROX® Resin Technology Drives Award-Winning Sports Car Chassis
Zenos E10 Chassis Features Huntsman Technology
A key Huntsman Polyurethanes customer, Bright Lite Structures of the United Kingdom, won major industry accolades for its Zenos E10 sports car chassis by winning the Materials Innovation Award at the 15th Society of Plastics Engineers Automotive Composites Conference and Exhibition (ACCE) in September 2015. The chassis components were manufactured using a patent-pending, structural carbon fiber solution that features Huntsman’s highly adaptable VITROX® resin technology.
For nearly two years, Bright Lite Structures worked hand-in-hand with Huntsman Polyurethanes to develop an innovative solution that would unlock the potential of the Zenos E10 – one of the lightest and least expensive track cars on the market.
Designed for Performance and Price
The Zenos E10 chassis comprises five pieces: a floor pan, front and rear bulkhead, and left and right body sides bonded together to produce one unit along with an aluminium center spine. The chassis uses a novel sandwich construction, meaning it is made with a thin layer of both recycled and virgin carbon fiber with a central core of recycled plastic honeycomb in between the two sections. Huntsman’s VITROX® resin system and automotive RTM-grade epoxy are used to form the skins and bond these elements to the plastic honeycomb core.
The unique honeycomb composite meets or exceeds the compression, stiffness and torsional rigidity required for the vehicle chassis, while reducing the weight of the car and costing far less than using exclusively virgin material. This sandwich composite design also reduces the chassis assembly time and cost compared to steel, aluminium or monolithic carbon composites.
Additionally, the honeycomb composite has an improved acoustic performance over alternate aluminum panels, helping to reduce the amount of noise control countermeasures that have to be added to the vehicle.
As a result of this polyurethane-enabled solution, the Zenos E10 track car weighs a mere 650 kg (1,433 lbs.) and starts under $40,000. Thanks to its ultra-light materials and unique construction, the E10 can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds and achieve a top speed of 135 mph.
“Huntsman Polyurethanes encouraged its Americas Business Development team to work with Bright Lite Structures to develop a better composite fiber solution that addresses many of the drawbacks of conventional carbon fiber composites,” said Antony Dodworth, Chief Technology and Manufacturing Officer, Bright Lite Structures.
Other companies are taking note of the strong performance found with the Zenos Sports Car. Bright Lite Structures is currently developing prototype components for other OEM and Tier 1 manufacturers, who are interested in the advantages that these light-weight parts bring to automobile design and production.
Manufactured for High Quality
The honeycomb sandwich panel is produced in a wet compression forming process, which is
capable of molding complex, deep draw designs in one step without reinforcement fiber or core preforming. The “skins” are made of carbon fibers that are impregnated with resin to produce them and bond them to the core. This simultaneous process thermoforms the core and cures the resin. Additionally, this process reduces capital costs compared to monolithic carbon composites, as less complex process equipment, smaller compression presses and more simply manufactured tooling are used.
Huntsman’s novel VITROX® resin system has been designed to have a low, stable initial viscosity with minimal viscosity increase; followed by a tunable induction period; and then a full, snap cure. This reaction behaviour enables long working times in fabrication of large parts for automotive and other applications. At the same time, the VITROX® resin system maintains the high physical property performance and impact strength for which polyurethane composite resin systems are best known.
The VITROX® resin technology previously received the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry’s (CPI) Polyurethane Innovation Award in 2012 for a cure-in-place pipe (CIPP) application, as well as a Best Technical Paper Award in the Automotive Session at CPI 2013.
VITROX® is a registered trademark of Huntsman Corporation or an affiliate thereof in one or more, but not all, countries.