Diapers Could Play Key Role in Keeping Cars Warm This Winter

Jan 07, 2015 04:05 PM EST | Matt Mercuro

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Believe it or not, diapers could play a big role in keeping you warm this winter.

An item that parents dread is helping General Motors' engineers simulate snow throughout the year, making sure heating systems in vehicles, like the 2015 Chevrolet Cruze, can warm its interior in a timely fashion.

Too much snow can prevent air from entering the inlet panel located at the bottom of the windshield, thus obstructing the flow of air into heating systems. This reduces the amount of air it can push out and lead to less efficient windshield defrosting and warming of a car's interior, according to GM.

"The last thing anyone wants to do when it's freezing cold out is scrape their windshield," said Nicholas Jahn, GM Vehicle Thermal Systems engineer, in a press statement. "The testing we perform on the Chevrolet Cruze with the diaper material allows us to maximize the car's heating capabilities."

Jahn said that the diaper-based testing method came about during a summer swim with his daughter.

While swimming, the engineer noticed his daughter's diaper multiplied in size when it came into contact with water. After conducting some tests, he realized that sodium polyacrylate, which is the absorbent material found in diapers, starts off as a powder and then turns into a snow-like substance when wet.

For his test, Jahn sprinkled the reusable snow onto the air inlet vents located at the bottom of the Cruze's windshield. He then started the car and let it idle, according to GM.

After a couple of minutes, Jahn then took out the inlet panel and inspected it to see how much snow was sucked into the system and how much of the intake vents were still blocked.

Before this discovery, Jahn had to rely on either real snow produced by Mother Nature or schedule some time at one of GM's climatic wind tunnels. The diaper method can be used anywhere and during anytime of the year however, and some of the material even dries out to be reused.

"Diaper material is perfect for testing for snow intrusion and packing properties, Jahn said.  

That's not something we ever expected to hear a GM engineer say, but if it means warmer winter drives who are we to judge. 

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