August 31, 2005

Nanotech coming to F1?

Extremely small: nanoid.
One-billionth (10^-9): nanometer.

Formula One. The birthplace of automotive ideas. The home of the newest and most cutting-edge technologies on the track. Where the cars are more closely akin to fighter jets and the aerospace industry than they are to the automotive world. A realm where steel is considered too heavy and too weak to use. A world where an engine turning at 17,000 RPM is thought to be too slow. Where engineers look to shave off not pounds nor ounces, but fractions of an ounce, all in the name of the almighty god Speed.

The logical place for nanotechnology.

And it's coming, as early as 2006. A process that creates sheets of "Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes" that are 100 times as strong as steel at only a sixth of the weight, has been produced at Rice University and the University of Texas, according to an article in the Tucson Citizen newspaper.

This material could be used for flat surfaces such as the front and rear wings almost immediately, providing a stronger form at less weight than the "plain old everyday" carbon fiber being used now. One result of this might be a reduction in nose replacements occuring from the nudging that often occurs in the first turn (such as what happened at Hungary this year, where Fernando Alonso's entire nosecone came off and David Coulthard ran over it, ending his day).

Eventually, one could imagine entire car bodies being made of this material, with a huge improvement in safety (fewer carbon fiber shards lying around on the track after an accident, resulting in fewer tire punctures later, for example) and an equal reduction in weight, always a good thing in the racing world.

While Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosely might want to "dumb down" the FIA regulations in the future, the rest of the sport should be looking long and hard at these developments. It'd go a long way towards showing the world that F1 is still the preeminent high-tech motorsport.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 05:50 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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1 I'm interested myself in what I think they call hybrid technologies in F1, where they have talked about the possibilities of generating energy during racing that they can apply back later in the form of boost, a self-generating "push to pass" boost if you will.

I do like the idea of super-strong carbon fibre pieces, although I guess it could potentially create different issues in crashes. If you hit a nosecone at the moment, it crumples and falls off. If it was much tougher, do you bounce off, or get thrown up in the air much easier?

Posted by: flotsky at August 31, 2005 08:28 PM (6T2ID)

2 Been finding out a bit more about this. Apparently the nanotubes material can also act as a semi-conductor, and can thus potentially storage energy within itself, in the manner of the hybrid tech I was talking about. Wow is all I can say.

Posted by: flotsky at September 01, 2005 07:06 AM (vnSex)

3 Yah, they can store energy to a certain extent; how much is the question. I'm not opposed to the idea of a hybrid F1 car, but there is one thing that makes me nervous:

Currently, hybrid cars use batteries, no? Consider a large amount of battery moving at 180 mph smashing backwards into a wall, like Cora Schumacher's Husband at Indy. Am I the only one who envisions a spray of battery acid going into the crowd and all over the track?

OR... a hybrid uses a fuel cell, which I guess are mostly hydrogen-based. The only thing I know that ran on hydrogen didn't end up very well: Hindenburg. Would they go boom in a Ralf Special-type of crash?

Of course, gasoline can flame up, too, so it's all six of one, half-dozen of the other I suppose.

Posted by: Wonderduck at September 01, 2005 10:35 AM (ywZa8)

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