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High-temperature polymers

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The use of polymers in racing powertrains is relatively limited, their main use normally being as a matrix for fibre-reinforced composites. There have been a number of uses of polymers, both filled and unfilled, to the highest levels of motorsport. However, these are normally special polymers which are far more expensive than those general-purpose plastics that we might normally associate with machinery whose components operate close to ambient temperatures; examples of such materials are...

Power electronics – packaging considerations

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Looking to the future, there is a strong trend emerging in the regulations of some of the major race series to incorporate new technology to make racing power units more efficient. The internal combustion engine is inherently inefficient, and although race engines are generally more efficient than their road-going counterparts – lower friction and higher average throttle openings being two good reasons here – they still throw a lot of energy away in the form of heat. We have heat...

Innovative bearings

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Life is a compromise. As engineers we are all familiar with the principle of ‘give and take’, and once the problem is identified, until now we have always managed to come up with a workable solution which, if not altogether perfect, suits most of the people most of the time. Rather like engine plain bearings. A plain white metal, bi- or tri-metal engine main or big-end bearing has to cope with a range of conflicting requirements. First, it has to be strong enough to support the...

The camless engine

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As used in automotive applications the internal combustion engine is woefully inefficient. Many gasoline race engines can claim up to 35% thermal efficiency at specific speeds and loads, but a figure of 25% – even as low as 20% overall – may be more realistic on the track. The fact is that the opening of the intake and exhaust valves by mechanical methods is rarely anywhere near that for optimum performance, largely because of transient conditions and the use of the throttle to...

Polymer coatings to reduce fretting fatigue

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The widespread phenomenon of fretting is a form of wear found between pairs of components that are normally designed to have no relative movement or at least very limited amounts. We often find evidence of fretting on splines, where the degree of axial movement is small, and in race engines we also find evidence of it on mating faces between large structural components. Race engines are commonly constructed using aluminium for the structural components, and where both components are of the...