Automotive Applications for Technical Ceramics

Automotive Applications for Technical Ceramics

Meta description: Technical ceramics are being used in challenging applications for hybrid vehicles, sensors and brake discs. Read on to find out more.

The use of Technical ceramics in the automotive sector goes back more than two decades. The luxury car market in particular has been a keen user of piezoelectric sensors and brake discs made of technical ceramics.

The challenge today is not just to develop and manufacture components for the hybrid-vehicle sector, but also to improve manufacturing processes and methods.

Hybrid Vehicles

As battery technology improves, ceramics are in demand for thermal management. The new generation of hybrid vehicles needs efficient cooling for engine electronics. These ceramics have a high chemical resistance to glycol, which is commonly used as a coolant.

The light weight of the ceramic component means that not only is the vehicle’s overall fuel efficiency improved, but it maintains a low noise level.

Level Sensors

A piezo ceramic such as lead zirconate titanate (PZT) is a type of technical ceramic that is fixed to the bottom of the vehicle’s tank. This sensor oscillates as it responds to an electric current that in turn depends on the level of fuel in the tank. The fuel level is recorded on the vehicle’s dashboard.

As these are no moving components in this sensor, there is almost no wear and tear.

Brake Discs

Most brake discs in vehicles are made from heat-resistant and very heavy cast iron. But as manufacturers and buyers seek lightweight constructions, some future discs could be manufactured in aluminium. This not only saves on weight and fuel use, but also improves the handling of the vehicle.

But a soft metal such as aluminium is not really suitable for components like brake calipers. It needs a protective layer for the generated friction and heat. This is where technical ceramics find a role.

Such ceramic brakes have been used in upmarket cars such as Porsches as well as racing cars but have also added over £12,000 to the vehicles’ cost. The challenge is to find a ceramic brake coating that is both economic and suitable for budget-level cars.

Switzerland’s Empa Institute is developing a laminate made of technical ceramics that has a thickness of 2 millimeters. This comprises 15 separate layers of aluminium oxide containing silicon carbide – a method of increasing heat conductivity.

However, as aluminium expands four times faster when hot than ceramic, the coating has to be applied in tiles. Research is proceeding to ensure the tiles adhere correctly to the brake callipers and do not fall off during an emergency stop.

For more information on technical ceramics and its uses contact Multi Lab today or visit our website.