Characteristics of a life-saving textile

Security and Protection

Textiles are not only used for clothing, but also as technical materials in all industrial sectors, such as for making airbags in the automotive industry.

A year has passed since the start of Digiprime, a Horizon 2020 project aimed at developing a digital platform that will support companies in the automotive industry in their transition to the Circular Economy. In recent months, numerous studies have been carried out on the state of the art of textiles in the automotive sector, and today we would like to talk to you about a fabric that is very useful in the case of a car accident.

The airbag is a complex device, its life-saving operation based on the generation of a controlled explosion capable of inflating a safety cushion in a few instants at the moment of impact. As you can imagine, there are many parameters to take into account, but there are also properties that are not so obvious.

When we think about an airbag, we all have in mind images of air-filled cushions in the interior of cars. ” Fortunately “, the fabric spends most of its time folded up inside the containment chamber in the steering wheel and passenger side dashboard. The cushion can spend up to 15 years in this quiet state, which is why it must have excellent ageing characteristics, i.e. it must not change its properties over time, even in extreme heat and/or cold. In addition, the fabric must have a great capacity for packing, taking up as little space as possible.

When the sensors detect a high deceleration at the moment of collision, they trigger a signal that detonates the explosive and thus inflates the cushion. All this happens in about 80 milliseconds, less than the average human blink of an eye. At this stage, the fabric has to fulfil several characteristics:

  • A low gas permeability to be able to inflate in a very short time;
  • A very high resistance to tension to avoid breakage;
  • A high resistance to bursting;
  • A good modulus of elongation for optimal cushion deployment.

A material that meets all the above characteristics is Nylon 6.6. For years it has been the most widely used polymer for this purpose, being spun and woven in different ways. For optimum surface coverage, a multifilament weaved in a very narrow plain weave is often used, but also with a twill weave or a newer one such as rip-stop. A special feature of Nylon 6.6 is its 4% moisture regain, which can help prevent burns to accident victims by rapidly quenching any incandescent dust resulting from detonation.

Within the DigiPrime project, knowledge of the materials, structure and performance of automotive textiles is essential to promote their reuse or recycling across sectors. Centrocot within the project is a reference actor in the textile sector and responsible for identifying and promoting the development of digital solutions to support a real and effective circular economy, as well as developing pilot cases for the recovery, recycling and reuse of textile materials at the time of vehicle dismantling.

For further details

Omar Maschi Ph. D. – Multisectoral Research and Innovation Department

Francesco Dellino – Multisectoral Research and Innovation Department

Author: Francesco Dellino
Multisectoral Research and Innovation Dept.