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Deborah Mielewski | Ford Motor Company | Canada

Dr. Deborah Mielewski is the Senior Technical Leader of Sustainable Materials and Plastics Research at Ford Motor Company.  She received her B.S.E. ('86), M.S.E. ('93) and PhD ('98) degrees in Chemical Engineering, from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and has been with Ford Motor Company for 28 years.  Dr. Mielewski has worked at Ford Research in automotive paints, polymer processing and materials development.  She initiated the biomaterials program at Ford Research in 2001, and her team was the first to demonstrate soy-based foam that met all the requirements for automotive seating.  Ford launched soy-based foam on the 2008 Mustang, and soy seat cushions and backs have found their way into every Ford North American built vehicle. Over 75% of headrests in N.A. also feature bio-based foam, and the Ford Escape features a bio-foam headliner.  Bio-based foams currently reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 25 million pounds and reduce petroleum dependence by over 5 million pounds annually.

The group continues to pioneer the development of sustainable plastic materials that meet stringent automotive requirements, including natural fiber reinforced plastics and polymer resins made from renewable feed stocks.  Another success has been the development and implementation of wheat straw filled poly(propylene) that was launched on the 2010 Ford Flex storage bins.   This material utilizes a waste stream, is lighter in weight than either talc or glass filled materials and reduces CO2 emissions.  In 2013, the first automotive application of cellulose reinforced poly(propylene) was introduced in the armrests of the Lincoln MKX.  The cellulose reinforced composite, developed with Weyerhaeuser, replaces a glass-filled component, and is lighter in weight.  Ford currently has 8 plant-based materials in production vehicles, making them a leader in automotive.

 Dr. Mielewski is passionate about the work she does to reduce Ford’s environmental footprint and believes that these new materials are going to dominate the market in the future.  She has appeared in a Ford national commercial, the NOVA “Making Things” series and has been interviewed by countless media outlets.                                                 

Dr. Mielewski has over 40 referred journal publications and 10 U. S. patents.  Her work has been acknowledged with awards such as the Henry Ford Technology Award, the R&D100 award, the Free Press Automotive Leadership Award, the Dr. Haren Gandhi Research and Innovation Award and the American Chemical Society’s Industrial Innovation Award.

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