Saturday, January 28, 2023

The ingredients that make Formula 1 cars the fastest and safest machines

At 280 km/h, a Formula 1 driver supports an acceleration several times greater than the force of gravity, comparable to the acceleration experienced by an astronaut when a rocket takes off. Accident at that speed cannot be calculated. However, accidents do happen in Formula 1 and drivers are saved, such as Robert Kubica at the 2007 Canadian GP.

After being derailed at 280 km/h, Kubica’s car was completely destroyed, leaving only cockpit, the cabin in which the pilot travels. He got out of the wrecked vehicle on his feet and thanked Pope John Paul II for his salvation: “It was John Paul, he saved me.” Kubica didn’t remember the technology, to the extent possible, that converts cockpit The Vikings already wanted a Formula 1 key on a shield.

cockpit as a life jacket

Kubica was able to save his life thanks to composite materials, specifically carbon-carbon: the main material used to make single-seater chassis. The McLaren team pioneered its use in the late 1990s.

Carbon fiber is a very light material, but individually it can reach a mechanical resistance comparable to that of a good steel. Embedded in a matrix, carbon can also absorb much more energy than steel before the fiber breaks.

A carbon fiber composite material can have three times the tensile strength of a good steel (3.5 GPa vs 1.3 GPa), but with the advantage of being 6 times less dense (1.75 g/cm³ vs 7.9 g/cm³). This gives it a specific resistance of 2 GPa against 0.17 GPa for steel.

In composite materials, a network of fibers fills a matrix. With this configuration, when a crack occurs, its propagation is inhibited and the material is able to withstand much higher energy before breaking.

Strongest Synthetic Fiber

Newer aramid-type fibers such as xylon (also used in bulletproof vests, for example) sometimes replace carbon fiber. These new materials offer even greater capacity to store energy.

Fernando Alonso miraculously survived the Australian Grand Prix after crashing at 310 km/h. If the pilot of Heaven can live to tell about it, it is thanks to Xylon, a material more resistant than steel that prevented a tragedy in turn 3 at Albert Park as it absorbed all the energy despite the fact What it is capable of absorbing is destroyed by impact. Zylon is considered to be the strongest synthetic fiber created in the laboratory today.

brakes are a technical prodigy

When we watch Formula 1 broadcasts, the commentators put a lot of emphasis on brake temperature: if it is not appropriate, the effectiveness is reduced. This behavior is governed by laws associated with the scientific discipline known as tribology.

A material comes in contact with a counter-material and braking occurs due to friction. We are facing what is called a tribological system, in which the materials that are in contact are the temperature, the humidity, and the contact surface material.

A temperature difference of even a few degrees can cause brake shoes to fail within seconds or even minutes. And the rate of corrosion of brakes, moreover, can be modified depending on environmental conditions.

The knowledge provided by materials science is essential to be able to estimate the best survival conditions against the extreme operating conditions of Formula 1 brakes (5G acceleration or deceleration), which are also made of carbon-carbon compounds (such as aviation brakes) . by the Brabham team in the 1980s). A race can be won or lost because of brake wear.

Tire and Tribology

The tyre-track system is also a tribological system. Tire wear (directly linked to grip) once again depends on the materials they are made from, but also on temperature and environmental conditions, and more.

In Formula 1 races, poor tire selection has been the cause of great disasters that have never had a positive outcome.

Here, again, composite materials (or even better, composite structures) rule, where reinforcing steel bands are used on a rubber base (various rubbers).

The stiffness of the base rubber determines the behavior of the tire and consequently the vehicle’s adherence to the track. Not taking into account the hardness, temperature or humidity of the track when choosing tires can lead to accelerated wear and total loss of grip. And, consequently, the loss of positions in a race.

Aluminium, titanium and steel for the engine

In Formula 1 engines we find metals from several families: aluminum in the engine block, titanium in the pistons, steel in the crankshaft. We never find titanium in a conventional car engine (except for some high-end vehicles) because of its high cost and its harmful effects. This can cause corrosion problems: titanium, being a very “noble” element, acts more like a cathode than steel or aluminum, causing them to corrode.

The short life of Formula 1 engines reinforces the need for reliability and resistance to potential corrosion problems. But in the quest to control weight, we can find magnesium alloys (even lighter than aluminum), or completely in the opposite direction, tungsten to act as a counterweight and comply with weight regulations.

We can also find ceramic coatings to optimize performance. Ceramic allows for higher working temperatures and greater customization of thermal cycles.

Formula 1 engines are a materials testing laboratory, where some replace others based on their fatigue behaviour, working temperature, reliability. Laboratory that allows you to export your progress to serial vehicles.

When an engine breaks down and a part needs to be replaced, however complex it may be, materials technology today allows it to be replaced in a matter of hours thanks to additive manufacturing (3D printing) of metals. Once again, Materials Laboratory Export Technology.

If today we think about what are the driving forces driving the design and development of prototypes of Formula 1 cars, we can say that they are stability and safety. We build cars that weigh less, consume less, but maintain or improve performance and never forget driver safety.

We have already talked about the protection that the new material provides to the chassis which protects the pilot from harm in case of a crash at high speed. But let’s not forget the progress in the development of flame retardant materials that do not harm the pilot’s skin for several seconds in the event of a fire. Cars operating at the limits of technology thanks to the material. Fast, durable and safe cars.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
Nation World News is the fastest emerging news website covering all the latest news, world’s top stories, science news entertainment sports cricket’s latest discoveries, new technology gadgets, politics news, and more.
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