Airbags explosion: Takata seeks alternative to explosive chemical

airbagTAKATA Corp. is planning to “transition” away from using a volatile chemical in its airbag inflators. Executive vice president of Takata Kevin Kennedy over the week that the company would ramp up production of airbag inflators containing guanidine nitrate, an explosive compound used as propellant that is used by competitors like TRW and Autoliv.

The chemical is less vulnerable to heat and moisture than ammonium nitrate. Takata has identified exposure to heat and moisture over several years as a leading factor behind its airbag ruptures.

Takata began producing “alternative propellants” using guanidine nitrate within the last year or two and is ramping up its use, Kennedy said, adding “I think overall you will see our production of ammonium nitrate go down rapidly.”

It was the first time that a Takata official publicly acknowledged that the chemical itself is a factor in the ruptures. Chemical experts have said ammonium nitrate has an inherent vulnerability to degradation when exposed to moisture, which Takata has identified as a leading factor behind the airbag ruptures.

When degraded, the compound can ignite with too much force in a crash and cause the metal inflator canister to rupture.

All vehicles covered by the Takata recalls contain a formulation of ammonium nitrate that excludes a desiccant, a chemical additive that absorbs moisture and can increase an inflator’s useful age, Kennedy said. While Takata has been incorporating a desiccant into its ammonium nitrate formulation for years, Takata still manufacturers a few older families of inflators without the additive for use in new vehicles, Kennedy said.

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