National Physical Laboratory

Applying new automotive technology

In 2002, NPL/NMS scientists worked with automotive suppliers NGF EUROPE Limited (NGFE) to help them assess cam belt materials technology.

NPL's work on automotive materials has led to huge reductions in CO2 emissions and fuel consumption (image courtesy of iStockphoto)
NPL's work on automotive materials has led to huge
reductions in CO2 emissions and fuel consumption
(image courtesy of iStockphoto)

NGFE wanted to gain a deeper understanding of how their cam belt adhesion was generated during vulcanisation of glass fibre cord reinforcements within the rubber matrix of the belt.

The Challenge

The nano-indentation study revealed that there were differences in the breadth of the adhesive interface between the glass fibre cord and the rubber, caused by adhesive component migration and its cure speed.

The Solution

As a result of this discovery, NGFE were able to enhance their process which has remained stable and problem-free ever since. This adhesion system has been used for cam belts fitted to some 250 million engines since this pioneering 2002 NPL/NMS study - on average belts were fitted on some 25m vehicles each year.

The Impact

Cam belts have been measured in comparison to the alternative technology - a cam chain. The belts studied improved engine efficiency by above 1%, and reduced CO2 emissions. It is possible to calculate the benefit of being able to use a timing belt, and not a timing chain:

In one year 25m vehicles travel ~ 500 billion kilometres. The average petrol car currently consumes one litre of fuel every 11 km, so on this basis, the fuel saved by car owners in one year amounted to some 450 million litres worth around £610m at today's prices. The project also leveraged savings of 750,000 metric tonnes of CO2.

These substantial environmental savings made possible by the NPL project should be contrasted with its £300k cost to the NMS.

Find out more about the related EMRP 2011-2014 project MeProVisc - Dynamic mechanical properties and long-term deformation behaviour of viscous materials

Find out more about NPL's Materials work

Last Updated: 10 Jan 2017
Created: 11 Sep 2012

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