When the U.S. luge teams slide down the track at the Sochi Winter Olympics at speeds exceeding 95 mph, millions of Americans at home will be cheering on the athletes. Two of them – Jay Tudor and Scott Burr – will be rooting for the competitors and their sleds. The two researchers for The Dow Chemical Company helped re-engineer the luge sleds to make them faster.

Burr is the lead R & D manager for Dow Core R & D, and Tudor is a research scientist for the Midland, Mich.-based company. In the upcoming January/February issue of Composites Manufacturing magazine, they share their two-year journey of creating advanced materials for sleds for USA Luge. Those materials – a mix of carbon fiber, Kevlar, fiberglass and other composites – will be on display in Sochi.

CM Interviews talked with Burr and Tudor about the high-profile project, other materials research at Dow and the future of composites. Be sure to grab your copy of the January/February issue of CM to read the full article. Don’t get CM? To receive your free subscription, just click here.

While experimenting with materials for the luge sled, how did you leverage technologies created for customers in other markets?

Burr: Work done for Dow Automotive was a big influence. The interface of the luge rider to the sled itself has many similarities to the interface drivers have with their automobiles. Being able to leverage that knowledge – what the feel of a ride means to a driver with regard to the mechanism they are controlling – was very valuable.

Conversely, did you learn anything during the sled project that will benefit other clients?

Tudor: We used vacuum-assisted RTM (resin transfer molding) for the luge pod and bridges. It’s a new capability for our group, and we’ve been able to use it in other areas. That’s been very helpful in making other projects go quicker – in making materials and samples for customers.

Burr: The materials we used [for the sled] have been developed at Core R & D in concert with Dow Automotive and some other business units. The luge project uses those materials in a very dynamic and exciting atmosphere, where we can evaluate the materials themselves and the manufacturing methods that go with those materials. [The result is] a really nice demonstration for our customers of what we’ve developed and how well composite materials work.