Breakthrough In Brakes
Reported May 2007
Malta, N.Y., (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- City driving is a pain, and just to add more fuel to your fury, your car's cast iron brakes cost you money every time you drive.
Cast iron is heavy so it reduces the fuel efficiency of your car. Stan Hemstad, a materials research scientist at Starfire Systems Inc. In Malta, New York, has come up with a solution. He has designed a new brake that weighs a lot less. It's made from fiber-reinforced ceramic and it's nearly indestructible
Hemstad explains his technique, "What happens, instead of cracking, the fibers hold the material together, same thing as adobe bricks. The straw keeps it from crumbling and falling apart." A typical metal brake weighs nearly 20 pounds. This ceramic brake weighs less than five. Hemstad says, "There is a lot of weight savings. That makes the cars accelerate faster, more maneuverable, reduces gas consumption."
However, making the brakes is expensive and time consuming, taking over four hours. Hemstad says the goal is to make them less expensive so they can go on higher-end cars and eventually all passenger cars.
Ceramic brakes are still being tested, but they're already an option on high-end performance cars starting around $10,000. They could be on all cars for less than $400 within three years. According to Hemstad, the gas benefit savings will pay for the brakes. Ceramic brakes also last longer than metal brakes, so there is no need to replace them as often.
The secret behind the ceramic brakes is the special polymer. That polymer is also being used for repairs on space shuttle flights and in circuit boards. Ceramic brakes are now common in the world of motocross racing. One driver even says he's shaved two seconds off his lap time with the lighter material.
The Materials Research contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
Herb Armstrong, Public Information
Starfire Systems, Inc.
Malta, NY 12020
Materials Research Society
Warrendale, PA 15086-7573
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