US 20060054513 A1
A fuel tank for a vehicle is disclosed, comprising at least one component which is blow-moulded multimodal poly-ethylene having a polydispersity Mw/Mn of at least 4, formed of at least two blocks, each having a polydispersity Mw/Mn of less than 4.
1. Fuel tank for a vehicle comprising at least one component which is a blow-moulded multimodal polyethylene resin having a polydispersity Mw/Mn of at least 4, formed of at least two blocks, each having a polydispersity Mw/Mn of less than 4.
2. Fuel tank for a vehicle comprising at least one component which is a blow-moulded multimodal polyethylene resin, wherein the polyethylene has a creep deformation at 80° C. of no more than 2.4%, and a Charpy impact at −40° C. of at least 15 kJ/m2.
3. Fuel tank according to
4. Fuel tank according to
5. Fuel tank according to
6. Fuel tank according to
7. Fuel tank according to
8. Fuel tank according to
9. Fuel tank according to
10. Fuel tank according to
11. Fuel tank according to
12. Fuel tank according to
13. Fuel tank according to any one of
14. Fuel tank according to
15. Fuel tank according to
16. Fuel tank according to
17. Fuel tank according to
The present invention relates to an automobile fuel tank comprising polyethylene and to the manufacture of such a tank.
Automobile fuel tanks comprising high density polyethylene are known. Such fuel tanks are required to exhibit high safety performance, particularly with regard to fire resistance and impact resistance. They are required to meet minimum statutory industry specified performance criteria both with respect to creep resistance when the tank is subjected to a fire, and crash test resistance when the tank is subjected to an impact. An automobile fuel tank for use in Europe is required to have a fire resistance and an impact resistance both complying with the respective standards defined in ECE34, Annex 5. In order to meet these standards, known blow moulded automobile fuel tanks are required to have a minimum wall thickness of at least 3 mm so as to provide sufficient impact strength and creep resistance for the fuel tank as a whole. An automobile fuel tank composed of polyethylene typically has a volume of up to about 100 litres, or even greater. Given the requirement for such volumes in combination with the need for progressively lower wall thicknesses, this places a high demand on the physical properties of the walls of the tank, both following manufacture and when used. Thus the walls of the fuel tank are required not to warp or shrink following the manufacture thereof, and are required to have a precisely defined shape and rigidity during use. Accordingly a fuel tank is required to have a good environmental stress crack resistance, good creep resistance and also good impact resistance.
JP 06172594 discloses a polyethylene composition suitable for blow-moulding into a gasoline tank, which comprises a blend of a high molecular weight polymer and a low molecular weight polymer made using a Ziegler catalyst. Ziegler catalysts have a variable comonomer content with molecular weight, and a usually have a broad molecular weight distribution, generally significantly greater than 4.
WO 97/02294 and WO 95/11264 both discloses a bimodal HDPE resin in which the low molecular weight component is produced using a metallocene catalyst, and the high molecular weight component produced using a non-metallocene catalyst. Although the resins a re intended for use as films, they are said to be suitable for blow-moulding into containers a fuel tank is given as one example of a container. However no indication is given as to whether the physical property requirements for automobile fuel tanks discussed above would be satisfied by this resin. The non-metallocene part of the catalyst can be expected to produce a high molecular weight component having a variable comonomer content with molecular weight, and also a broad molecular weight distribution, probably greater than 4. This would be expected to result in a resin having poor impact properties.
We have found that it is possible to obtain blow-moulded vehicle fuel tanks having improved properties with a polyethylene prepared using a multimodal catalyst which produces individual blocks having a relatively narrow molecular weight distribution.
Accordingly in a first aspect, the present invention provides a fuel tank for a vehicle comprising at least one component which is blow-moulded multimodal polyethylene having a polydispersity Mw/Mn of at least 4, formed of at least two blocks, each having a polydispersity Mw/Mn of less than 4. Preferably the blow-moulded component forms one or more of the walls of the tank. By “multimodal” polyethylene is meant polyethylene having at least two components of different molecular weights and compositions (ie comonomer content).
The polydispersity of the injection-moulded multimodal polyethylene is preferably no greater than 35, more preferably no greater than 20. The most preferred range is 4-20.
In a second aspect, the invention provides a fuel tank for a vehicle comprising at least one component which is blow-moulded multimodal polyethylene, wherein the polyethylene has a creep deformation at 80° C. of no more than 2.4%, and a Charpy impact at −40° C. of at least 15 kJ/m2. Preferably the polyethylene has a creep resistance at 80° C. of no more than 2.3%; preferably it has a Charpy impact at −40° C. of at least 20 kJ/m2.
In this specification, Charpy impact is defined as the impact as assessed by notched Charpy tests performed at −40° C. on specimens taken from 4 mm compressed plates according to ISO179/1EA. Creep resistance is defined as that assessed by tensile strength measurements preformed at 80° C. under 2.5 Mpa on ISOB1A specimens machined from 2 mm thick compressed plates.
The polyethylene is preferably bimodal: by “bimodal” is meant two components of different molecular weights, one having a higher relative molecular weight than the other of the two components and compositions (ie comonomer content).
The unformulated polyethylene resin, before the incorporation of any additives, preferably has a density of from 930 to 965 kg/m3. If following injection moulding the density is lower than 930 kg/m3, then the creep resistance of the component may be insufficient for use in an automobile fuel tank. If the density is higher than 965 kg/m3, then the walls of the tank may be too brittle, resulting in insufficient impact resistance and toughness. In this specification, the density of the polyethylene is measured according to ISO 1183. Resins used in fuel tanks typically contain about 0.5wt % of carbon black, which increases the density compared with unformulated resin by less than 1 kg/m3.
The high load melt index (HLMI) of the resin is preferably between 1 and 10, more preferably between 2 and 7 g/10 min. HLMI is measured using the procedures of ASTM D 1238 at 190° C. using a load of 21.6 kg.
For blow-moulding, an important parameter of the resin is its viscosity at low shear rate. Accordingly it is preferred that the value of μ0, the viscosity at a shear rate of 1 s−1, with a conical die having a ratio of length to internal diameter of 0.3:1, is at least 2.5×106 dPa.s, preferably at least 3×106 dPa.s.
The bimodal polyethylene preferably comprises 20-80% of a high molecular weight block, and 70-30% of a low molecular weight block. Most preferred is 35-65% of the high molecular weight block, and 65-35% of the low molecular weight block. The low molecular weight block is preferably a homopolymer of ethylene, but may also be a copolymer. The high molecular weight block is preferably a copolymer of ethylene and one or more of butene, pentene, hexene and octene. The Melt Index (MI2) of the low molecular weight block is preferably less than 500, more preferably less than 100 g/10 min. MI2 is measured using the procedures of ASTM D 1238 at 190° C. using a load of 21.6 kg. The HLMI of high molecular weight block is preferably between 0.001 and 2, more preferably between 0.01 and 0.7; its density is preferably less than 950, more preferably less than 940 kg/m3.
The polyethylene resin utilised in the present invention may be made using a Ziegler-Natta catalyst. In such a case, the Ziegler-Natta catalyst should be one capable of producing individual blocks having polydispersities of less than 4. The polydispersity of overall resin in such a case is preferably between 10 and 18. Ziegler-Natta catalysts typically consist of two main components. One component is an alkyl or hydride of a Group I to III metal, most commonly Al(Et)3 or Al(iBu)3 or Al(Et)2Cl but also encompassing Grignard reagents, n-butyllithium, or dialkylzinc compounds. The second component is a salt of a Group IV to VIII transition metal, most commonly halides of titanium or vanadium such as TiCl4, TiCl3, VCl4, or VOCl3. The catalyst components when mixed, usually in a hydrocarbon solvent, may form a homogeneous or heterogeneous product. Such catalysts may be impregnated on a support, if desired, by means known to those skilled in the art and so used in any any of the major processes known for co-ordination catalysis of polyolefins such as solution, slurry, and gas-phase. In addition to the two major components described above, minor amounts of other compounds (typically electron donors) may be added to further modify the polymerisation behaviour or activity of the catalyst.
It is preferred that at least the high molecular weight block, and preferably both blocks, of the polyethylene resin are made using a metallocene catalyst, in which case the polydispersity of the resin is preferably between 5 and 9. It is believed that the improved properties of the fuel tanks are due to the fact that metallocene catalysts have a generally constant comonomer content as molecular weight varies.
Metallocenes may typically be represented by the general formula:
Where (C5Rn)y and (C5Rm) are cyclopentadienyl ligands,
The most preferred complexes are those wherein y is 1 and L is halide or alkyl. Typical examples of such complexes are bis (cyclopentadienyl) zirconium dichloride and bis(cyclopentadieniyl zirconium dimethyl. In such metallocene complexes the cyclopentadienyl ligands may suitably be substituted by alkyl groups such as methyl, n-butyl or vinyl. Alternatively the R groups may be joined together to form a ring substituent, for example indenyl or fluorenyl. The cyclopentadienyl ligands may be the same or different. Typical examples of such complexes are bis(n-butylcyclopentadienyl)zirconium dichloride or his (methylcyclopentadienyl)zirconium dichloride.
Examples of such complexes may be found in EP 129368 and EP 206794 the disclosures of which are incorporated herein by reference.
Another type of metallocene complex is constrained geometry complexes in which the metal is in the highest oxidation state. Such complexes are disclosed in EP 416815 and WO 91/04257 both of which are incorporated herein by reference. The complexes have the general formula:
Cp* is a single η5-cyclopentadienyl or η5-substituted cyclopentadienyl group optionally covalently bonded to M through -Z-Y— and corresponding to the formula:
Most preferred complexes are those wherein Y is a nitrogen or phosphorus containing group corresponding to the formula (—NR1) or (—P R1) wherein R1 is C1-C10 alkyl or C6-C10 aryl and wherein Z is SiR″2, CR″2, SiR″2 SiR″2, CR″═CR″ or GeR″2 in which R″ is hydrogen or hydrocarbyl.
Most preferred complexes are those wherein M is titanium or zirconium.
Further examples of metallocene complexes are those wherein the anionic ligand represented in the above formulae is replaced with a diene moiety. In such complexes the transition metal may be in the +2 or +4 oxidation state and a typical example of this type of complex is ethylene bis indenyl zirconium (II) 1,4-diphenyl butadiene. Examples of such complexes may be found in EP 775148A and WO 95/00526 the disclosures of which are incorporated herein by reference.
For example the complexes may have the general formula:
We have found that by utilising the above-described resins, it is possible to obtain blow-moulded fuel tanks having excellent fire resistance and creep resistance, and also satisfactory impact properties. The the above resins can also be used in rotomolding processes and for thermoformed fuel tanks; preferred resins having a low viscosity at a low shear rate, such as those made using metallocene catalysts, are particularly suitable.
A: Bench Scale Preparation of the Low Molecular Weight (LMW) Polyethylene Fraction
Under a stream of dry nitrogen gas 1.8 millimole of tri-isobutyl aluminium (TIBAL) and 1800 ml of isobutane-were introduced into a dry autoclave reactor having a volume of 5 litres and provided with an agitator. The temperature was raised to 80° C., and after pressure stabilisation hydrogen gas was added. Ethylene gas was then introduced until a partial pressure of ethylene of 10×105 Pa was achieved. The amount of hydrogen previously introduced into the autoclave reactor was selected so as to obtain the desired final gas phase molar ratio of hydrogen to ethylene (H2/C2 molar ratio).
The polymerisation was then started by flushing the solid catalyst A, ethylene bis (4,5,6,7-tetrahydro-1-indenyl) zirconium dichloride (prepared in accordance with the method of Brintzinger as published in the Journal of Organometallic Chemistry 288 (1995) pages 63 to 67), into the autoclave with 200 ml of isobutane. The temperature, partial pressure of ethylene, and the H2/C2 ratio were kept constant over the polymerisation period. The reaction was stopped by cooling and then venting the reactor. The low molecular weight polyethylene was then collected from the reactor.
The detailed polymerisation conditions are specified in Table 1.
B: Bench Scale Preparation of the High Molecular Weight (HMW) Polyethylene Fraction
The process for preparing the high molecular weight fraction was the same as that for preparing the low molecular weight fraction specified above in Example A, except that instead of adding hydrogen after raising the temperature to 80° C., varying amounts of 1-hexene comonomer were added and a different amount of ethylene was introduced, in order to obtain the desired ethylene partial pressure and C6 =/C2 ratio. The high molecular weight ethylene-hexene copolymer obtained was collected from the reactor.
The detailed polymerisation conditions are specified in Table 1.
C: Preparation of the Polyethylene Resin Blend
In order to prepare the bimodal resin, the desired quantity of the low molecular weight polyethylene fraction obtained in Example A above was blended with the desired quantity of the high molecular weight ethylene-hexene copolymer obtained in Example B together with Irganox B225 antioxidant commercially available from CIBA Speciality Chemicals. The resulting blend was pelletised in an extruder (APV Baker under the trade name MP19TC25). The details of the blending recipes are specified in Table 2.
For the various physical property evaluations, compressed plates of varying thicknesses were formed as follows. Polymer flake was loaded into a picture-frame mould and brought in contact with the plates of a hot press, which were rapidly heated up to 190° C. at a pressure of 20 bar. The sample was held at those conditions for approximately 5 minutes. The pressure was increased to 80 bar in order to force the polymer to flow out through the shape of the frame. After 5 minutes, pressure was released and the temperature was decreased at a rate of 15° C./min down to 35° C. The plates thus obtained were stored at room temperature for at least 7 days before being submitted to any mechanical tests.
Impact properties were assessed by notched Charpy tests performed at −40° C. on specimens taken from 4 mm thick compressed plates according to ISO179/1EA.
Creep resistance was assessed by tensile strength measurements performed at 80° C. under 2.5 Mpa on ISOB1A specimens machined from 2 mm thick compressed plates.
Environmental stress crack resistance (ESCR) was determined by FNCT performed at 50° C. under 7 Mpa stress on 6×6 mm specimens taken from compressed plates.
The results of the above tests are shown in Table 4, and a plot of Charpy vs Creep is given in
As shown in Table 4, it can be seen that all the resins of the invention satisfy these basic requirements. However, a significant number of the above Examples have a Charpy impact of greater than 15 kJ/m2, as defined in the second aspect of the invention, which makes them significantly superior to commercial resins used in fuel tank applications such as X and Y in