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High-strength aluminium

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Despite not being fettered by overbearing regulation, the use of aluminium in the production engine remains popular because the material has much merit. While there are many production applications where lower-density materials such as magnesium or non-metallics are becoming more popular, the position of aluminium in racing is assured as there are many race series that mandate its use for certain applications. While cast aluminium is likely to maintain its dominance for structural...

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...


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The use of tungsten in motor racing is widespread, especially on the chassis side of the business, where its high density makes the material prized for use as chassis ballast. Commonly cars are designed and made underweight compared to the regulations in force, and are then ballasted to meet the minimum mass. Such is the effectiveness of achieving the correct weight distribution that cars are often designed to be well underweight, and a surprisingly large proportion of their mass is...


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The applications of copper alloys in engines are generally those where we might expect to see relative movement or where a combination of strength, wear resistance and thermal conductivity is required. A favourite type for many of these applications are the copper-beryllium alloys. Beryllium is a very lightweight element, and has some attractive mechanical and physical properties. However, there are health considerations regarding its use. Copper-beryllium alloys are not felt to be a...

Directional strength of steels

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There is little doubt that, in many ways, steels have improved markedly in recent years. Fatigue properties in particular have seen a large improvement owing to better steel cleanliness. However, it is not only the cleanliness that affects fatigue behaviour, but the processing of the steel, and this processing introduces anisotropy into the steel. Anisotropy is the effect whereby mechanical properties vary according to the direction in which they are measured. By the use of directional...