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Metal-matrix composites

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There are a wide range of metals used in the modern race engine. Where regulations are sufficiently liberal, we may find an engine containing everything from aluminium, magnesium and steel to titanium and tungsten. In many ways the materials behave very differently but in others their specific properties, especially specific modulus (elastic modulus divided by density), are very similar. For example, a typical aluminium alloy has a modulus of 70 GPa and a density of 2.7 g/cc, giving a...

Battery KERS

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When (or if) we watch a Formula One race on television this year, the commentators will probably talk about the KERS system, and how (or if) it is being used. The KERS units have yet to attain the same impressive level of reliability of the highly stressed internal combustion engines used alongside them. This is hardly surprising; we understand combustion engines pretty well after having developed them for more than 130 years, and modern race engines, in series where regulations are...

The turbo ball bearing

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While the concept of the turbocharger has been around since 1926, the basic compressor/bearing housing/turbine hasn't changed that much in the past 50 years. Certainly compressor wheel aerodynamics have improved considerably and turbine technology has also changed quite a lot. But apart for the introduction of some variably geometry designs, outwardly most turbo units are still very similar to the ones I played with when I first started, many years ago. But if you look closer,...

Timing is the key

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The design of valve lift profiles can no longer be described as the sole province of the specialist engineer. Today we have many excellent software packages that will do just that without having to go anywhere near a polynominal equation or even think about things like 'instantaneous radii of action'. Introduced to the precise geometry of the valvetrain, these will, with relative ease, output a profile within the constraints of jerk, acceleration and velocity. Once more, with the...

Oil-shedding coating applications

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In a previous article on oil-shedding coatings in summer 2010, I mentioned some of the reasons why they might yield performance gains in an engine where frictional losses due to the action of oil shearing are significant. These coatings are likely to offer most gain in engines where there is a combination of an excess of oil and a number of areas of small dynamic clearance where shearing takes place. The reality is that, where opportunity exists to engineer a more carefully considered...