If the automakers aren't taking a hard look at this, I'd be shocked. Cutting 30 lbs from the weight of a mid-size sedan is a gigantic change. Engineers typically fight to cut a pound or two from their vehicles. If they can cut 10 lbs, they're heroic. Thirty is off the scales.
----------- Sadly this same way of thinking is why they went bankrupt.
------------ We have cost effective composite tech that can drop most car, SUV's weight by 50% and double their mileage. And they know it as they all have built them as showcars like the GM UltraLite. And yet they drool over a few pound savings. Not much critical thinking there.
I knew a brake job was due a while back and did a little searching as to what race cars use. I knew they would completely fry a steel rotor and formula 1 would melt it. Unfortunatly these seem to be custom built. The only thing I think might be keeping them out of non racing cars is that they don't stop that all that well when braking from low speeds.
I've used aluminum rotors on a race car. I won't ever do it again. The coefficient of thermal expansion is much greater than steel. This means that the rotor heats up and grows, diminishing the clearance between the rotor and caliper until the rotor actually grinds against the caliper (I know, I know... you can always design it with more clearance to compensate. But it is not a drop in replacement at that point). Secondly, Aluminum gets really weak as it gets hot and will fall apart under high mechanical and thermal load. This is exactly what happened to me (lots of little melted aluminum chunks all over the track and my car). Steel, titanium and Carbon can glow red hot and still function as a brake rotor, Aluminum can not.
grand, thanks for your comments. This is not aluminum but an aluminum composite. That fact, plus the fact that the composite includes ceramic, makes me wonder whether one of the reasons for the ceramic is to lower heat, especially since the company developing the material has experience making similar composites for NASA for extreme temperature apps, as they describe here
Obviously we don't run these things right up to the melting point, but this gives us a clear view of how much heat we can dissipate from a material. If I can run a material 3 times hotter, I can make it 3 times smaller.
grand, I'm aware of the fact that this stuff doesn't run as hot as steel, but wanted to make sure you knew it was a composite. The main benefit the research is aimed at here is reducing weight, not size. I'm not surprised to hear that aluminum can be a problem in race cars. The vehicles this material targets are consumer cars and military transport vehicles.
Reducing car weight is more difficult than it looks. Lighter materials of the same strength are usually more costly. Brake disks are an example where several lighter materials exist, but each currently comes with negatives. Cost for some, limited max temperatures for others. Downsizing is possible and is currently being done, but many buyers stubbornly insist on being able to carry a family in comfort. The best approach seems to be a holistic approach, which is well underway. This, too, is costly, requiring a coordinated design, development, and manufacturing effort with technical support from suppliers. Those efforts are some of the reasons that car weight is not dramatically falling. But progress, though slow, is continuing and new cars now weigh considerably less than some of their forebearers.
How can automakers, aerospace contractors, and other OEMs get new metal alloys that are stronger, harder, and can survive ever higher temperatures? One way is to redesign their crystalline structures at the nanoscale and microscale.
Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
A fun and informative tour you can attend at the upcoming Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis, MD&M Minneapolis, and other events there, is the Materials Innovation Tour on Wednesday afternoon. I'll be leading it.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies.
You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived.
So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.