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'Hot Zone' plastics beat the heat

Increased design flexibility and sustainability

The development of DSM’s Diablo high-performance, heat-resistant plastics - a real breakthrough in performance and sustainability - is proof that much more may be possible than we first think. By applying scientific expertise in new and daring ways we can make leaps forward that are as great as they are unexpected.
Thermoplastics able to withstand higher temperatures

The introduction of thermoplastics able to withstand higher temperatures opened new doors to automotive innovation. The ability to replace certain metals lowered costs, increased design freedom and made cars lighter – which, in turn, increased fuel efficiency and lowered CO2 emissions.

However, the seeming impossibility of creating polymer-based materials capable of long-lasting performance above 200°C appeared to have halted further advances in their tracks.

Breaking the barrier

Break the 200°C barrier

DSM had been trying to break the 200°C barrier for years, says DSM’s Product Developer Willy Sour. “Some internal experts said we should forget it: that we knew enough about polymers to know it would never happen.” The solution, when it came, was found in a very unexpected place. “In searching for ways to avoid oxidation of the polymer, we honed in on a component used in a completely different application in a completely different industry. The idea of using it in polyamides seemed strange, but nevertheless we gave it a try."

Tenfold increase

Until that point polyamides generally delivered around 1,500 hours of stable performance at 200°C, dropping to 800 hours at 210°C. In contrast, in testing the novel ‘left-field’ combination of materials represented a gigantic leap forward. “We got up to 8,000 hours at 210°C with very limited degradation,” Willy explains. “There was a very unique interaction of physics and chemistry taking place that we’d rarely seen before, in which chemical reactions changed the material property and behavior over time.”

Simultaneous research and development

Simultaneous research and development

As product development began, a project team made up of experts in physics, chemistry, materials and analytical sciences was formed to get a better understanding of the breakthrough. Results from development activities were fed back to the project team to provide a flow of new input for  its research, and vice versa, eventually resulting in the launch of Diablo OCD 2100.

Lighter, more sustainable

Unlocking the key to long-lasting high-heat performance has enabled the auto industry to expand the use of thermoplastics to a greater range of under-hood applications, making cars even lighter and further reducing fossil fuel use and CO2 emissions. And because of their design flexibility these 'Hot Zone' plastics can be used to make more compact components, so freeing up space under the hood for more smart-car applications – such as improved pedestrian impact protection.

Next generation

Stanyl Diablo (top) & PPA (bottom) after 3,000 hours at 210°C

DSM is continuously working to optimize the balance between Diablo’s heat aging and mechanical properties. Next-generation products which have already been launched, such as Stanyl® Diablo HDT2700 and Akulon® Diablo HDT2500, demonstrate DSM’s ongoing progress in maximizing performance and further improving the technology for the engines of tomorrow.

Dare to be different

The development of Diablo remains a source of inspiration at DSM, and a reminder of the role that daring plays in innovation. “It’s human nature to establish and follow familiar paths in life and work,” says Willy. “Unconsciously, you build resistance to doing things in new ways. Diablo proves it’s worth doing so more often, and that what seems impossible today may be perfectly possible tomorrow.”