What Are Airbags Made Of? (All Types Of Materials)

Airbags are safety devices that make it possible for people to walk away with minimal or no injuries after a car crash.

During a crash, they inflate immediately to cushion the passengers from injuries. But, what exactly are airbags made of? Here’s all you need to know.

What Are Airbags Made Of?

Airbags are made of nylon and inflated with non-toxic gases that make it possible for them to deploy. When there’s a collision, chemical reactions in the bag generate the gas that inflates it. After airbag deployment, there will be a smoke-like residue from talcum powder that manufacturers use as a lubricant to make deployment easier.

For more information about airbags and what they are made of, keep reading for useful facts and tips!

What Raw Materials Do Airbags Have?

As one of the least used devices and parts in a vehicle (unless you are always in an accident), do you know what airbags are made of? Listed below are the details:

1. Nylon

Airbags are typically made of nylon, which is folded and installed in different car parts, including the dashboard, steering wheel, seat, door, and any other airbag components.

These woven nylon fabrics come in different sizes and shapes, depending on the type of vehicle. After the airbag has been sewn together, it’s inflated to check for any seam imperfections.

2. Propellant

When your car gets into a collision, a series of chemical reactions take place to produce the nitrogen gas.

Airbags don’t inflate due to compressed gas, but rather due to a chemical reaction involving sodium azide (NaN3) and potassium nitrate (KNO3).

Under normal conditions, sodium azide is dangerous when it falls apart because sodium is a reactive metal that could harm your eyes, nose, and mouth.

To minimize these dangers and make the gases non-toxic, manufacturers mix the sodium azide with other chemical compounds that react with sodium to make it less toxic. The sodium azide has to be inspected to ensure that it conforms to safety requirements during the manufacturing process.

3. Inflator

Airbags are also fitted with inflator components such as the filter assembly, the metal canister, and ceramic materials. Once the inflator sub-assembly is put together, it’s combined with the propellant and an initiator.

How Do Airbags Work?

During a collision, the sensors detect the crash and send an electric signal to the ignitor that contains sodium azide.

When this is communicated, the electric signal detonates an ignitor compound, and the heat leads to the decomposition of sodium azide, which generates nitrogen gas.

By the time the sensor detects the collision, the airbag is usually fully inflated with nitrogen gas within 30 milliseconds. Once the body makes contact with the airbag, it starts deflating to allow the car occupants to move.

Do Airbags Have Metal?

Airbags are supposed to protect you instead of injuring you. During the manufacturing process, the propellant is combined together with a metal initiator canister to help with deployment.

However, these metal parts have been quite a problem and led to the largest safety recall in U.S. history. Airbags made by Takata that were installed in cars between 2002 and 2015 have led to several deaths.

The metal cartridge explodes forcefully during deployment, causing the metal parts to be sprayed towards the passengers. NHTSA identified these kinds of problems that arise when the ammonium nitrate-based propellant is used without a chemical drying agent.

According to Consumer Reports, there have been several reported incidences and deaths due to the Takata airbags since 2014. Most of these accidents happened because the metal shrapnel from the airbags injured the drivers and passengers.

What Gas Is Used To Fill In Airbags?

What Gas Is Used To Fill In Airbags?

Airbags are filled with sodium azide (NaN3), and when they’re ignited they release nitrogen, which inflates the airbag.

However, this reaction forms sodium metal which can be corrosive when the airbag bursts. Therefore, manufacturers include other chemicals to make the gases less toxic.

Do Airbags Have Explosives In Them?

Sodium azide in the airbags combines with a propellant to trigger the airbags to inflate. During a crash, the airbags have little time to inflate; therefore, the airbag circuit ignites a chemical explosive to help them deploy.

This is quite safe because the airbags deflate after a few seconds. However, if the airbag is faulty, this can hurt the driver and passengers.

Are Airbags Kevlar?

Airbags are mostly made of nylon material, while airbags made of Kevlar are used for other purposes such as NAS expeditions due to the material being tougher.

Do Airbag Materials Cause Injuries?

While airbags are known for protection, they fail in some cases and lead to injuries. As we’ve mentioned, the Takata airbags are a leading culprit in this because when the airbags deploy, they do so with so much force that it leads to an explosion of harmful metal parts.

In addition, NHTSA has identified several cases of fake airbags, about 0.1% of the U.S. vehicle fleet. When your car is fitted with counterfeit airbags, it may fail to deploy during a crash or expel metal shrapnel during deployment, which is quite harmful.

Therefore, to avoid getting these fake airbags, it’s advisable to have them replaced by a professional mechanic. In addition, the airbags should be similar to the old ones from the same manufacturer.

Getting the proper airbags is the first step in protecting yourself and your passengers during a car crash, which can also cause injuries due to the following reasons:

1. Accidental Airbag Deployment

When your car hits a pothole or curb, your airbags could accidentally deploy, injuring the driver and causing them to lose control of the vehicle.

2. Aggressive Deployment

If your airbags deploy too aggressively, they can injure your car occupants, especially children. Overall, instead of protecting the passengers, it causes injuries.

3. Lack Of Side Airbags

Federally, side airbags are not mandatory; therefore, some vehicles might not have them. If a collision happens, a side impact causes more injuries.

4.  Late Deployment

At times, the airbags might deploy late and cause more injuries, which happens if the sensor or the airbag itself is damaged.

If you want to know more, you can also read our posts on what are advanced airbags, what are curtain airbags, and if airbags can be reused.

Conclusion

Airbags are made of nylon material and inflated with non-toxic gases that make it possible for them to deploy.

During a collision, chemical reactions in the nylon bag generate the nitrogen gas that inflates it. After the airbag deploys, a smoke-like residue appears, which is talcum powder used by manufacturers as a lubricant to make deployment easier.

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