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Zircotec Ceramic Coating Offers Improved Braking for Carbon Bike Wheels

Published on 2010-09-30. Author : SpecialChem

OXFORD -- An anti-wear ceramic coating originally developed for Formula 1 racing cars could be about to offer cyclists a highly effective braking solution for lightweight carbon composite wheels. Created by Zircotec, the ultra thin lightweight ceramic coating is applied to the rims of carbon composite wheels to provide a tough, long lasting and durable braking surface that is capable of delivering exceptional levels of modulation even in wet conditions. The coating offers improved stopping distance and wet weather performance, and allows the use of standard hard-rubber brake materials in place of the specialist blocks normally used for carbon rims. Additionally the black colour of the coating compliments the standard black colouration of the composite rim. Testing by a professional cyclist during a pre-season training camp in Majorca demonstrated consistent and repeatable performance during 3,400km of riding in all weather conditions.

The ultra thin ceramic coating provides a tough, long lasting solution to allow cyclists to retain the simplicity and weight benefits of rim brakes and gain improvements in stopping distance, wear and performance in all weather conditions

Increased availability of lower price carbon wheels has led to a marked increase in their usage. Up until now however, using the carbon rim as the braking surface has led to compromises in brake performance, notably in wet weather conditions or where high temperatures are experienced such as steep descents. Cork-based pads reduce the risk of damage to the rim surface but these are ineffective and can disintegrate in the wet. Other methods, such as aluminium braking rings or switching to more complex disc setups negate the weight benefits of a carbon wheel. By providing a better braking surface, Zircotec's ceramic coating allows cyclists to retain light hubs and rims, and more slender and aero-efficient forks.

"Testing using standard rubber blocks suggests that our coating offers a significant improvement in stopping distances and no wear to the coating or wheel rim," says Zircotec's sales director Peter Whyman. "Dexter Gradias, the cyclist undertaking the trials in Majorca, believed that in slippery conditions, control under braking was 'excellent' and pad wear was reduced, the rubber blocks lasting for over 2500km of varied riding."

The testing also highlighted the coating's ability to protect the wheel from heat and abrasion, attributes that are derived from the unique application process. Molten ceramic is sprayed at very high temperature in a carefully controlled process that ensures the underlying carbon composite is protected. "Zircotec developed the ability to safely coat composites for motorsport," says Whyman. "We currently coat composite parts for more than 70% of the F1 grid and have developed bespoke protection methods for the substrate." The result is a coating that has an excellent bond strength and minimal wear. "The ceramics protects the carbon surface from damage inflicted by road grit trapped between the rim and pad material, currently an issue with existing set ups.

Zircotec's ceramic coating for carbon composite is the subject of a recent patent filing, and the use of the technology for bike wheels is just one of the potential applications identified by Zircotec. Zircotec is now seeking partners from within the cycle industry to help take the technology forward.

About Zircotec:

Zircotec offers a wide range of plasma sprayed ceramic and metallic coatings that protect components against the effects of heat, wear, abrasion and corrosion. Lightweight and easily packaged, Zircotec's technologies can be applied to a broad range of different materials including metals and composites. Proven in F1 and the nuclear industry, the technology is now trusted by car manufacturers, industrial users, car enthusiasts and an increasing range of other applications to effectively manage heat and wear, enhancing performance and reliability. ZircoFlex™, the latest development from Zircotec, offers for the first time, a truly flexible ceramic coating.

Source: Zircotec

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