WATERFORD, N.Y.—Momentive Performance Materials Inc. opened a 20,000-sq.-ft. research and development laboratory in Charlotte, N.C., to test and develop advanced compounds used in tire manufacturing.
The company is investing about $3.5 million in the new lab, which will serve as a global hub for development of silane materials that can help tire manufacturers produce tires with lower rolling resistance, better wet traction and advanced performance.
"This new tire research and development laboratory reinforces our commitment to developing cutting-edge specialty products for the global automotive industry," said Jack Boss, Momentive president and CEO. "The lab will enhance our ability to improve the advanced compounds tire manufacturers need to optimize production and develop new products."
The new lab currently has 10 employees with a combined total of more than 200 years of tire experience, including some of the industry's foremost tire researchers, according to a statement. Momentive actively is recruiting in the area.
Silane products are key ingredients tire manufacturers rely on to create innovative solutions to reduce automotive fuel consumption, the firm said. Low rolling resistance tires help increase fuel economy while reducing carbon dioxide emissions because they minimize wasted energy used to overcome a conventional tire's rolling resistance.
As a result, auto makers and consumers increasingly seek low rolling resistance tires to help reduce fuel consumption. Silane products are incorporated by tire manufacturers into their tires to help reduce rolling resistance while preserving wet traction.
The tests performed at the Charlotte lab primarily are based on the performance, formulation and mixing data that a tire manufacturer needs in order to evaluate and incorporate products such as NXT silane into compounds.
"Momentive has the ability to apply not only compound testing data, but also silane synthesis, analytical testing, computational chemistry, forensic analysis and silica-silane interface understanding in its interactions with tire makers," a Momentive spokesman said in a statement.
The lab speeds results by teaching customers how to work with Momentive silanes while they build and launch tire designs, according to a statement. Researchers at the Charlotte lab use industry-standard testing equipment to provide a comprehensive picture of what tire manufacturers may experience as they incorporate silanes into tire compounds. They also can share a wide range of data on the physical and mechanical properties of the compound.
"Our goal is to help our customers increase speed to market for both design and performance," said Mike Stout, Momentive's global marketing director for tire and rubber. "With our new lab, we can do just that. We can shorten development time for compounders because we're able to replicate the testing and analysis they conduct when incorporating our tire silanes, thus validating their results."
The new lab is part of Momentive's continued investment into the automotive industry, and particularly the tire and rubber segment. It is a component of a global initiative by Momentive to expand its production capabilities for the automotive industry.
The company acquired the operating assets of Sea Lion Technology Inc. in January to increase the availability of tire silanes in the U.S.
Momentive also invested about $30 million and broke ground on a new manufacturing facility for NXT silane materials in Leverkusen, Germany, to further enhance tire silane availability, and to make locally-produced materials available in Europe.