Solvay is taking a “leadership role” in the development of the Polimotor 2 all-plastic automotive engine to be tested in a race car next year, demonstrating the company’s advanced specialty polymer technologies in light-weighting through metal replacement. The collaborative project is intended ultimately to set the stage for innovative breakthroughs in future commercial automobiles.
The original Polimotor was developed by Matti Holtzberg in the 1980s. The first version of the Polimotor, based on the Ford 2.3L Mustang engine, used a combination of carbon fiber, Torlon, epoxy, ceramic and metal. The engine block, cylinder head, valve spring retainers, timing gear intake valves and several other parts were made of fiber reinforced composites (FRCs). The reciprocating mass was still metal.
The second version of the original Polimotor project was more extensive, noted Buckley et al. in a 2005 review of the use of FRCs in internal combustion engines. The engine produced 237 kW (318 hp), and featured a block, cylinder head, intake, valve spring retainers, timing gears, piston skirts, rings connecting rods, intake valve stems, push rods, rocker arms, wrist pins, cam followers, turbo casings and impellers out of FRCs and plastics. Components exposed to temperatures above 260 ˚C were metal.
This engine raced successfully in a Lola 616 in the Camel GT Series as well as winning several British hillclimbs in the Gulf Oil sponsored Series. Solvay also contributed toward the success of the first Polimotor engine. Holtzberg, the President of Composite Castings, is leading the development of the Polimotor 2.
In April 2011, Composite Castings LLC introduced a new, lightweight, carbon fiber composite, 4-cylinder engine block, using Toho Tenax America’s Tenax brand carbon fiber as the reinforcement for the base epoxy resin.
Last October, IDI Composites International and Composite Castings announced a collaborative effort to demonstrate production feasibility of a proprietary thermoset structural composite molding compound. The focus of this molding demonstration will be the Polimotor 2, a 4-cylinder carbon fiber reinforced polymer engine based on the Ford 2.0 liter Duratec engine.
Automotive engines typically are made entirely of metal and are the single heaviest part in a car. Polimotor 2 aims to develop an engine weighing 138-148 lbs (63-67 kgs), or about 90 lbs (41 kgs) less than today’s standard production engine.
The Polimotor 2 double-overhead CAM engine will ultimately be installed in a Norma M-20 concept car in 2016 for competitive racing at Lime Rock Park, Conn.
In Polimotor 2, Solvay will replace up to ten metal engine components—including the water pump, oil pump, water inlet/outlet, throttle body, fuel rail, cam sprockets and others—with parts made from seven of its high-performing thermoplastic materials.
Solvay technologies targeted for use include Torlon polyamide-imide (PAI); Amodel polyphthalamide (PPA); KetaSpire polyetheretherketone (PEEK); AvaSpire polyaryletherketone (PAEK); Radel polyphenylsulfone (PPSU); Ryton polyphenylene sulfide (PPS); and Tecnoflon VPL fluoroelastomers.
Solvay is a leading provider of specialty polymers materials for the automotive industry, which is increasingly relying on the company’s ultra-resilient materials solutions to replace metal parts in exterior, interior and underhood applications to enable the industry to comply with tougher fuel and emission regulations.
Buckley, R., Stanglmaier, R., Radford, D., and Willson, B. (2005) “A Prediction of Weight Reduction and Performance Improvements Attainable through the use of Fiber Reinforced Composites in I.C. Engines,” SAE Technical Paper 2005-01-3693 doi: 10.4271/2005-01-3693