Special Labs

A material’s properties are more than the sum of its ingredients – the tyre’s final characteristics are also influenced by the interactions between the compound’s components. Despite their minute particle size, fillers such as silica and highly active carbon black are critical to tyre function, combining to produce fractal structures that resemble coral branches. These form a network that strengthens the tyre’s mechanical properties. The Continental R&D department’s Special Labs provide indepth insights into these structural and property relationships. 

A material’s properties are more than the sum of its ingredients – the tyre’s final characteristics are also influenced by the interactions between the compound’s components.

Scanning electron microscope
In the Special Labs, these structures are revealed by a scanning electron microscope (SEM). An electron beam scans the material’s microstructure, providing striking insights into the rubber’s morphology and elemental composition.

Atomic force and transmission electron microscopes
The atomic force microscope (AFM) is a special deep dive analysis instrument that reveals the rubber material’s nanostructure. Atomic forces bend a cantilever with a nanoscale silicon needle on the end. The needle tip raster scans the material line by line. Located in its own dedicated lab room, the transmission electron microscope is used to view highly active carbon black, silica and other nanofillers down to a particle size of 0.3 nanometres.

3D-digital microscope
The 3D digital microscope provides further insights into this microscopic world. This optical microscope reveals the topography and surface roughness of rubber at the microscale. Wearing virtual reality headsets, researchers can view the surface of the rubber as if they were walking across a lunar landscape.

microscope
Wearing virtual reality headsets, researchers can view the surface of the rubber as if they were walking across a lunar landscape.

Research and industrial practice

The insights provided by these different instruments allow the development team to analyse surfaces down to the tiniest detail. The Special Labs’ portfolio of test equipment really comes into its own with new material concepts where standard testing methods are unable to provide a complete, highly detailed picture of the relevant structures. An understanding of the physical and chemical laws and forces at work on the nanometric scale allows developers to make targeted quality improvements rather than relying on empirical experimentation. In the Special Labs, research and industrial practice are thus inextricably linked.

The insights provided by these different instruments allow the development team to analyse surfaces down to the tiniest detail. The Special Labs’ portfolio of test equipment really comes into its own with new material concepts where standard testing methods are unable to provide a complete, highly detailed picture of the relevant structures. 

Research and industrial practice

An understanding of the physical and chemical laws and forces at work on the nanometric scale allows developers to make targeted quality improvements rather than relying on empirical experimentation. In the Special Labs, research and industrial practice are thus inextricably linked.

Research and industrial practice

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