Solvay Revives Work On The All-Plastic Engine

Solvay is reviving its development work on the “Polimotor” all-plastic car engine.

The Brussels-based company announced in a press release that it will replace up to ten metal engine components–including the water pump, oil pump, water inlet/outlet, throttle body, fuel rail, cam sprockets–with parts made from seven of its high-end engineering plastics as part of an ongoing project called Polimotor 2.

In the original project, Polimotor Research Inc. of Fair Lawn, New Jersey, replaced the cast iron engine block—with Torlon polyamide-imide thermoplastic, a very strong and heat-resistant material that is a bear to process. Solvay’s Torlon was originally developed by Union Carbide in the 1960s and has largely remained on the sidelines as an engineering material because of molding difficulties. Polimotor worked on development with Ford, but the engine was never installed in a production car.

The 2.3 liter Ford Pinto Polimotor engine weighed 153 pounds versus 415 pound for its iron counterpart. But actual commercialization of the Torlon engine was a huge capital risk, and car companies are risk-averse.

Solvay has specific targets for Polimotor 2: development of an engine weighing about 90 pounds (41 kgs) or 40 percent less than today’s standard production engine of 138 to 148 pounds (63-67 kgs).

Solvay says that the Polimotor 2, four-cylinder, double-overhead CAM engine will be installed in a Norma M-20 concept car in 2016 to compete at the racing of Lime Rock Park, Connecticut.

Matti Holzberg holding his CFRP engine block.

Matti Holtzberg holding his CFRP engine block.

Solvay plastics targeted for use include Torlon, Amodel polyphthalamide (PPA), KetaSpire polyetheretherketone (PEEK), AvaSpire polyaryletherketone (PAEK), Radel polyphenylsulfone (PPSU), Ryton polyphenylene sulfide (PPS) and Tecnoflon VPL fluoroelastomers.

Matti Holtzberg, who developed the original Polimotor, has been working on Polimotor 2 for several years as president of a Florida company called Composite Castings, which designs and manufactures carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) engine blocks. Holtzberg’s role is not mentioned in the Solvay press release.

Solvay likes these kind of projects (eg Solar Impulse), and I would guess is providing plenty of financial support to the new Polimotor project in order to announce it has taken “a leading role” and advance use of its high-end polymers. Holtzberg told The Molding Blog that more details are coming.

About Doug Smock

Former Chief Editor at Plastics World and Senior Technical Editor Design News

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