Researchers at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) and Michigan-based REL, Inc., are using fiber reinforced, metal matrix composite material to create a new automotive brake rotor potentially weighing 60 percent less than today’s cast iron rotors with triple the life expectancy.
The researchers also estimate that their composite rotor will shave approximately 30 pounds from a mid-size sedan — a significant advantage in an industry facing fleet a fuel economy requirement of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
REL, Inc., a developer of MMC transportation and aerospace components, received a $150,000 Phase I Small Business Innovation Research Grant from the National Science Foundation to develop the initial product design, material and manufacturing process. The company worked with NYU-Poly’s Composites Materials and Mechanics Lab to develop the technology for automotive application.
Most of today’s brake rotors are made of cast iron, which offers strength but at a cost of weight. Iron also doesn’t adapt well to the demands placed on different sections of the rotor. A brake rotor has three functional zones, each of which requires a material with distinct strain and thermal properties to function optimally. Temperature and pressure changes across the rotor surface are a major cause of wear, warp and brake failure.
The team will replace the traditional rotor material with a high-temperature aluminum alloy reinforced with functionally graded ceramic particles and fibers to create a lightweight but extremely durable material that can be customized to best serve each section of the rotor.
“These functionally graded materials allow us to create the optimal composition for each part of the rotor,” Gupta explained. “The hybrid material allows us to provide reinforcement where additional strength is needed, increase high-temperature performance, and minimize stress at the interfaces between the zones. Together, this should boost rotor life significantly, reducing warranty and replacement costs, and the weight savings will improve the vehicle’s fuel efficiency.”
“As auto companies strive to meet increasingly high efficiency and low emissions targets, there’s a tremendous business opportunity in creating novel lightweight components which reduce overall vehicle weight and increase vehicle performance”, said Adam Loukus, vice president of REL, Inc. “Professor Gupta is highly regarded in MMC research and analysis, and his expertise — backed by the resources of NYU-Poly — is an ideal complement to our goals for this exciting project.”
Gupta and the team at REL expect to complete a functional rotor prototype within 12 months
Press Release issued by NYU-Poly