Innovations in energy efficiency – nearly every one made possible by chemistry – are reducing energy demand for our cars, homes and businesses. And recently, the White House announced an important step towards even greater efficiency across the American manufacturing sector.
President Obama unveiled a new program through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that will establish an Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation Institute focused on innovations in fiber-reinforced polymer composites. These lightweight yet incredibly strong materials help provide energy saving benefits in a wide variety of applications – particularly in the automotive sector.
According to the DOE, the program will supply grants to nonprofit organizations, universities, national laboratories and private industry. This will help spur new research and uses for composites that support “clean energy products with better performance and lower costs such as lightweight vehicles with record-breaking fuel economy,” among many other uses, DOE says.
ACC’s Light Vehicle Report last year noted that the use of these composite materials by automakers is on the rise, which is leading to decreases in the overall weight of vehicles and improvements in performance and safety:
Plastic resins and composites have been essential to a wide range of safety and performance breakthroughs in today’s cars, minivans, pickups and SUVs. Today’s plastics typically make up 50% of the volume of a new light vehicle but less than 10% of its weight, which helps make cars lighter and more fuel efficient, resulting in lower greenhouse gas emissions.