Cars and the plastic revolution
Cars were once made from steel, now plastic is taking center stage. Here are some of the high-performance plastics developed by Mitsui Chemicals that are used in your car today:
＜ Bumpers ＞
They may have been made from shiny, gleaming metal in the past, but these days most bumpers are lightweight, carefully designed plastic products. The plastics used in bumpers contain a material called polypropylene. Although this is a familiar type of plastic, used in products such as food packaging films and bottle caps, these are all specially manufactured polypropylenes, made to suit particular needs. When making a bumper, the plastic can’t be too soft because it would lose its shape. At the same time, it can’t be too rigid because it would easily break in the event of a collision, which would prevent it from functioning as a bumper. Another key factor is that it needs to be easily moldable for various bumpers.
Our researchers here at Mitsui Chemicals are in constant communication with auto manufacturers, as they continue their daily quest to find the best possible plastic combination for your car’s bumpers.
＜ Fuel tanks ＞ ADMER™
You often hear figures for the capacity of fuel tanks, such as 55 or 65 liters, but do you know what sort of shape a fuel tank is, or how big? A 65-liter tank is slightly bigger than a large suitcase you might take on vacation. Although fuel tanks are fairly bulky, made of plastic they can be molded into any shape that closely fits the car’s body, making them more compact.
Plastic tanks used to suffer from gasoline penetrating the plastic. Fortunately however, technology was developed where the one plastic that acts as a barrier against the gasoline can be sealed to other plastics that are also used in the gas tanks.
Mitsui Chemicals’ adhesive polyolefin ADMER™ successfully adheres these different types of plastic together.
＜ Door seals ＞ Mitsui EPT™
Door seals are the long, thin rubber tubes that run around the edges of car doors. As well as being waterproof, absorbing noise and providing sound insulation, they also serve as cushioning materials between the door and the body of the car. They may not be glamorous, but they are important parts. If you imagine a car whose doors no longer have these functions… you start to get the picture. If there are any gaps, they will let in noise and allow rain to leak into the car. That’s why door seals have to be soft and able to easily change shape. If you think what it’s like when driving, or when opening or closing a car door, it is clearly important for door seals to absorb vibrations and retain their shape after being compressed. Obviously, water resistance is crucial too. Seals also need to withstand long hours of exposure to sunlight, and be able to remain soft even in high or exceptionally low temperatures.
Here at Mitsui Chemicals, we developed Mitsui EPT™, a synthetic rubber combining all of these properties. It has been highly praised by auto manufacturers for its functionality, and is used in vehicles all over the world.