Black Rock Desert, NV--When the Thrust Supersonic Car (SSC) shot across the desert to break the land speed record and the sound barrier, it needed something stronger than rivets, bolts, and welded joints to keep it from breaking apart under the severe stresses of its 763-mph performance.
The car remained intact, thanks in part to adhesive technology from the Permabond division of National Starch & Chemical Company (Bridgewater, NJ).
Two years ago former world record holder Richard Noble approached Permabond for adhesives and technical assistance. One reason: The company's adhesives can bond the many different materials that make up the Thrust SSC, including titanium, carbon- and glass-fiber composites, aluminum, and steel. The adhesives allow for better stress distribution than welds (which would have been incompatible with the car's range of materials), reducing the effects of the enormous pressures on the car. Adhesives also provide smoother and cleaner connections of the body panels on the car, resulting in better aerodynamics.
Permabond's adhesives had to withstand strong vibrations from the 50,000 lbs of thrust generated by two Rolls Royce engines that power the car, as well as stresses caused by supersonic speeds. They also had to maintain their strength under the intense heat of the engine's afterburners.
In the end, Permabond supplied three adhesives (A130 threadlock, E32, and ESP110) and a pretreatment product (SIP, Self Indicating Pretreatment), as well as technical support for the car's design, notes Paul Sennett, marketing manager at Permabond U.K. The company's epoxy resins were used in several critical areas, including fabrication of the jet-engine support structure, and the securing of external panels to the car body's framework.