By offering a new class of materials, Freudenberg Sealing Technologies is playing a significant role in improving fire protection in electric vehicle (EV) drives. Called “Quantix ULTRA,” the new offering resists melting even at extreme temperatures of up to 1,200 degrees Celsius. What’s more: processing the material in injection molding is versatile and economical.
Given that today’s vehicles call for lightweight construction, its lower density compared to metallic materials is an additional advantage. The first series application is now underway, as a flame-protection barrier for cooling system parts in an EV’s lithium-ion battery.
Electric vehicles with lithium-ion batteries have a range that is suitable for everyday use and require a high degree of safety. Various safety measures are being implemented to make sure that any thermal runaway of the battery is prevented or delayed. So far, plastic components for this purpose have generally failed to meet the automotive industry’s strict test standards for electric drives.
This is what’s different with the Quantix ULTRA, as the new material class withstands extremely high temperatures without melting or igniting. In laboratory tests, a two-millimeter-thick material sample can resist an applied flame with a temperature of 1,200 degrees Celsius for over 25 minutes.
Further tests that simulate the emission of hot particles under high pressure, which can occur if the gases in battery cells are abruptly discharged, were also conducted — with Quantix ULTRA withstanding the stress test for 20 seconds. Comparatively, a two-millimeter-thick aluminum sample only takes two or three seconds to be destroyed.
Freudenberg’s technology uses this innovative material to produce flame protection barriers for the cooling system of lithium-ion batteries. As of February 2024, these barriers will be used for the first time by a car manufacturer in series production vehicles.
Quantix ULTRA is suitable for all applications with high requirements for fire protection and lightweight construction. Moreover, it’s not limited to specific geometric shapes. The material can be processed into films, for example, to be implemented in battery-electric drives. Other areas of use include enclosures for power supply units, media-carrying lines, cable insulation, battery housing covers, and components for electric motors.
Flame protection at high temperatures
For engineering plastics, temperature resistance is an outstanding differentiating feature. This applies to amorphous and semi-crystalline materials. But all currently used polymers have one thing in common: once the so-called glass transition temperature is reached, their rigidity decreases noticeably and collapses abruptly when the melting point is exceeded.
In such a case, the flame protection ceases to exist. Quantix ULTRA is different.
“The new material doesn’t melt at high temperatures; instead, it exhibits elastic behavior that can be compared to elastomers,” explains Kira Truxius, material expert, Thermoplastics at Freudenberg. “It also has a glass transition temperature that is 53 Kelvin higher, which means that it retains its rigidity and flame protection over a significantly longer period of time. When you add up its qualities, Quantix ULTRA is at the very top of all currently known plastics.”
The base material of Quantix ULTRA is a thermoplastic that’s already temperature resistant. The precise addition of fillers such as glass or carbon fibers reinforces the mechanical stability even under enormous heat. The additional cross-linking of the plastic molecular chains ensures that the component maintains its shape even under extreme conditions. The material properties can be adjusted with a focus on the specific application.
“Our patented know-how consists of the precise addition of suitable materials that create bridges between the molecular chains. The patents are the result of successful teamwork,” explains Dr. Björn Hellbach, material expert, Thermoplastics at Freudenberg Sealing Technologies.
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