Loughborough University
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Development of HDPE fuel tanks

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posted on 2012-11-28, 14:14 authored by R.M. Shelley
Plastics fuel tanks have been used successfully abroad ; metal counterparts are still predominant in this country plastics tanks have to satisfy stringent performance regulations : low temperature impact tests ; permeability ; and fire resistance. Blow moulded high density polyethylene (HDPE) fuel tanks have superior strength to mass ratio compared with metal equivalents (the density of steel is about 8000 kg/m3 compared with HDPE, which has a density of under 1000 kg/m3 ). HDPE will tend to drip in a fire situation, thus reducing explosion risk. HDPE is the chosen material because it possesses inherent properties suitable for the blow moulding process : it has a high viscosity at low stresses ; and is highly inert. Rotational moulded HDPE fuel tanks can also be considered. However, these are shown to have inferior properties when compared with blow moulded tanks ; attraction of rotational moulding is the cheapness of equipment. Petrol immersion was found to enhance impact properties of HDPE, although yield stresses were lowered slightly. The thickness distributions of blow moulded fuel tanks were found to vary ; this is because of the present difficulty of predicting parison behaviour with respect to time. Thickness is important because of impact strength and permeation considerations. Impact properties of fuel tanks were assessed ; peak force of impact was found to be heavily dependent on thickness (raised to the power 1.1) and temperature of mould in the blow moulding process (a low mould temperature led to inferior properties). Pinch-offs were found to be particularly detrimental to impact properties. Cooling behaviour was investigated. With the aid of a cooling model for blow mouldings, it was found that a warm mould (40·C) could be used with internal air circulation to obtain a cooling time the same as that with a cold mould and no air circulation. Thus optimising mechanical strength and maintaining economic viability. Welding of injection moulded fittings to the main blow moulded body of the fuel tank was found to be faulty, in all of the tanks examined ; many weld failures have been reported in use. This work determines optimum welding conditions for HDPE grades, these are Rigidex H060-45P and Lupolen 426l-A.



  • Aeronautical, Automotive, Chemical and Materials Engineering


  • Materials


© R.M. Shelley

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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