Take the heat out of brakes

A UK firm developing advanced materials for car brakes that can withstand extremely high temperatures has received a boost after a US motor racing team became its first commercial customer.

Surface Transforms will supply brake discs and pads made from its carbon fibre-reinforced ceramic (CFRC) materials to a team competing in the Indy Racing League, the American version of Formula One.

Its debut in a competitive racing car represents a breakthrough for the Cheshire-based company, which claimed its technology could eventually become widely used in brakes, clutches and other applications for road cars.

Surface Transforms is developing CFRC materials that can withstand temperatures of up to 3,000 degrees C and are 70 per cent lighter than cast iron, the material most used in conventional car brakes. The firm claims CFRC has several advantages over cast iron, which degrades at high temperatures, causing brakes to work less efficiently when they are running hot after sustained use.

Braking systems in racing cars use carbon-based discs that work at their best at high temperatures – hence the need for drivers to ‘warm up’ their brakes during a pre-race lap. Surface Transforms said another advantage of its technology is that it has good ‘cold friction’ properties, allowing brakes to perform to their full potential from the outset.

‘In Indy racing the cars go round oval circuits at high speeds, using their brakes far less frequently than in Formula One,’ said managing director Julio Faria. ‘When they do use them, mainly to go into the pits or to slow down for safety purposes, they find the brakes are generally cold because they have been doing very little.’

Surface Transforms has also been involved in test programmes with Formula One teams. ‘Formula One is a tough market to get into, and with the budget cutbacks and rule changes you have seen recently it represents a bit of a moving target,’ said Faria.

Surface Transforms has its eye on a range of uses for CFRCs, including train and aircraft brakes and components for rocket motors.

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