Retarding the cost of carbon composite brakes

  • 28-Jan-2010 11:22 EST
Federal-Mogul 1.10 Lab test 1.jpg

Federal-Mogul is developing new pad materials, optimized to deliver the correct characteristics for use with recycled carbon brake discs.

When companies look for ways of paring costs, braking systems may not be prime candidates. As braking requirements have increased, so too have costs—with carbon composite the ultimate example, available only for very-high-performance, super-premium models. But now a U.K. government-backed consortium is examining the possibility of using manufacturing carbon scrap for the production of carbon discs.

Britain’s Technology Strategy Board is supporting the project, which is called Rebrake. A key member of the consortium is Federal-Mogul. At the company’s U.K. Friction Technology Center, Technical Manager David Holme detailed its progress: “The program has recently passed a major gateway by successfully manufacturing small disc samples that prove the concept. Now we are moving on to the manufacture and testing of full-scale prototypes.”

Those tests include both dynamometer work and real-life applications on cars using pad formulations developed by Federal-Mogul. The next step will be benchmarking against current best-in-class products. Not only do carbon brakes bring hugely enhanced braking performance, but they also reduce weight, thus providing a solution for cutting CO2 emissions and enhancing vehicle dynamics by lowering unsprung mass.

The project, which started in March 2007, may benefit other industries outside automotive, including railways and process specialists.

“If we can match or exceed the performance of today’s best systems, but at a much lower cost, the benefits will be substantial,” said Holme. Production could be achieved in three to five years.

Although Rebrake may lead to carbon brake options on cars below the exotic level, they are really a requirement for high-performance models so they are still likely to be available only on those at a price level of over about $110,000.

Carbon discs offer a weight savings of some 70% compared to conventional material, making Rebrake potentially a very significant project. The associated calipers would weigh the same as those used for existing systems. Precise details of cost savings provided by Rebrake have still to be determined.

Working with Federal-Mogul are Surface Transforms (a manufacturer of advanced ceramic discs); AP Racing (specialist in very-high-performance brake systems); Faiveley Transport; Wichita Clutch; Advanced Composites Group (main advisor and supplier of carbon scrap); and Meggitt Aircraft Braking Systems. Loughborough University is responsible for much of the early development work.

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