Tough, light, inexpensive composite brake rotors could make their way to regular cars


January 22, 2012

A team of researchers are developing inexpensive, light-weight, long-lasting aluminum ceramic brake rotors for everyday cars

A team of researchers are developing inexpensive, light-weight, long-lasting aluminum ceramic brake rotors for everyday cars

Currently, brakes made from composite materials tend to be expensive, and as such mainly just find their way onto high-performance cars and motorcycles. That could be about to change, however. Researchers from Michigan-based materials company REL and the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) are developing aluminum composite brake rotors for everyday cars. Not only should they be much easier to produce than existing composite rotors, but they should also be 60 percent lighter than their iron counterparts, and last three times as long.

The specific material that the rotors will be made from is a ceramic fiber reinforced, metal matrix composite. Its composition can be tweaked to address the specific tolerances required on different areas of the rotor.

"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," said NYU-Poly's Associate Professor Nikhil Gupta. "Together, this should boost rotor life significantly, reducing warranty and replacement costs, and the weight savings will improve the vehicle's fuel efficiency."

According to the researchers, iron rotors don't have such versatility, and as a result are more vulnerable to mechanical strain and high temperatures.

It is estimated that the composite rotors could reduce the total weight of a mid-size sedan by approximately 30 pounds (13.6 kg). Although a finished prototype isn't expected for about a year, REL is already offering a version for motorcycles.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Well.. about time..

Brake pads have been composite for decades, ever since asbestos was added to the resin to enhance the friction coefficient time to make the rotors composite....

Everyone thinks that the word composite can only be used for modern uber technological materials.....

Remember wood is a composite.


The savings is not just 30 pounds of weight, it is 30 pounds of UNSPRUNG weight. Very nice.

Bruce H. Anderson

Less unsprung weight by itself is better for handling, acceleration, and braking.

Joseph Shimandle

Great but too late? In 10-20 years all breaking might be done by electric motors that also generate electricity. It depends on how quickly batteries develop. The world is waiting.


Now that dynamic braking is used to generate electric power back into the batteries of electric vehicles with close to 0 brake wear, a new cheap composite for braking \"gas hogs\" is discovered. Way to go auto industry?

\"Helping fuel efficiency\"... Oooo K. How\'s it stand up \"MPG wise\" to solar charged electric batteries? Way to go auto industry?


Think of all the joy to be had in serious bikers if this trickles down to bicycling. Since the advent of disc brakes on bikes, nothing has changed much in the bicycle industry - we\'re still utilizing stainless steel rotors that fade after 3 months of use. And serious bikers fork out huge $$$ just to save a couple grams on their bikes - titanium bolts anyone? Hopefully, they see a market for this.

Sambath Pech

Aluminum sure is light, but it isn\'t really setup for heavy braking due to its melting point. Does this alloy affect the temperature handling properties of the aluminum?

You can read about other possible composite materials used on high performance vehicles already here:

Kassandra Kline

This technology is a bunch of nonsense. The only way to prove that brakes work properly is to have them successfully endure the rigors of motorsports first and then you can start to apply them to everyday production vehicles. Aluminum composite will NOT work. We have seen too often a bunch of scientists and college kids try and apply their theories to this complex application that involves far more than a brake rotor. To see a company that has proven itself in motorsports using composite ceramics for the past 15 years and is currently being configured for mass production and will be applied to everyday cars starting in 2016 one has to check out SICOM Composite Ceramic brakes. A small European company that\'s technology has been contracted to the largest car manufacture in Europe. This little company\'s patented Double Matrix Ceramic technology is also fixing Brembos SGL\'s unsuccessful carbon ceramic brakes that are oxidizing under extreme driving conditions.

Rides Channel
Post a Comment

Login with your Gizmag account:

Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our articles