Products for Car / Van / 4x4




The properties of a material are not determined simply by the  sum of its ingredients, but also by how they interact with one  another. Continental’s Special Labs provide revealing insights into  such “structure-property relationships”.

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The particles of filler reinforcement in the tyre material, for  instance silica or highly active carbon black, are only 15 to 18 nanometres in size.

transmission electron microscope

They are, however, of crucial significance  to tyre function because they produce fractal structures in the  material, with coral-like branches forming a network of “reinforcement”. The Special Labs are capable not only of modelling or simulating such structures but also of making them visible to the eye, enabling deep-dive analysis.

The scanning electron microscope (SEM) provides spectacular insights into the morphology and elemental composition  of the rubber material by means of an electron beam that can get right inside the nanostructure.

The atomic force microscope (AFM), on the other hand, provides access  to the rubber nanostructure. In this microscope, atomic forces bend a leaf  spring, on the end of which the tip of a nanoscale silicon needle scans the material, line by line.


The transmission electron microscope has an entire lab room of its own  and provides the highest magnification. It makes highly active carbon blacks, silica and other nanofillers down to 0.3 nanometre in size visible.


Optical 3D microscopes offer true immersion into the microworld. This type of  optical light microscope provides access to the microscale topography  and roughness of rubber. Wearing virtual reality headsets, researchers can  view the surface of the rubber as if they were walking across a lunar landscape.  A multimedia display enables them to analyse surfaces down to the tiniest detail.

The Special Labs are mainly called in when developers dealing with new materials concepts push the limits of standard test methods and need to get down  to the root of the matter. The effort is worth it, because if developers can understand the physical and chemical laws and forces at work on the nanometric scale, they can make targeted quality improvements rather than  having to rely on empirical findings from series of tests.

In the Special Labs, science and industrial practice are inseparably intertwined.