Carbon – not only beauty, but also practicality

Car tuning-car class simply must have at least one detail of this material in its design. Nobody argues about the aesthetic side of the matter (carbon looks spectacular), but we would like to understand its practical value.

“Well, how much it is possible?”, any motorist will exclaim, contemplating rusty divorces around a small chip on a hood. “Haven’t they invented more modern materials for a hundred years of car existence?” And really, can’t today’s science solve this problem? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, the search for an alternative to traditional steel sheeting has been going on for decades.

At first it seemed that the revolution in world automobile industry would come with mastering of mass production of bodies from light stainless aluminium which has so well approved itself in manufacture of spoons and airplanes. Alas, serious technological difficulties prevented its wide introduction. Even made of high-strength aluminum alloys, the parts were far from ideal – they had a lot of weight, but low rigidity and (oh, my God!) were susceptible to corrosion.

Carbon for the people!
At the same time the aerospace industry started widely using more perfect composite materials – commonly known glass and carbon plastics. But there is a problem: they are not suitable for mass production of automobiles, since they require too much manual labor. But for the relatively small and mobile manufacturers of unique car components, the complex technology turned out to be quite helpful. After all, for such products, performance is much more important than ease of manufacturing!

However, interior panels and seat parts made of real carbon fiber (this is what is called carbon fiber) are not a novelty today – they are widely used in motorsport. Now the specialists decided to prepare a line of products for serial automobiles. What are they offering? Perhaps the most basic details of the new series – carbon covers for engines of almost all European cars.

Some people think that carbon covers are put under the hood just for beauty and that carbon fibers, visible through the translucent binder, are nothing more than a beautiful symbol from the world of high speed. In fact, this cover is one of the most important elements of noise insulation. Carbon fiber-reinforced plastic fulfills this function much better than traditional plastic.

Why? Let us go a little bit deeper into the theory. It is known that CFRP is several layers of fabric bonded with epoxy or polyester resin. If you try to bend a sheet of such material, the layers will start to move relative to each other like the sheets in a car leaf spring. The resulting internal friction dissipates a considerable amount of deformation energy, so composites are excellent at absorbing vibration.

Carbon hoods are, of course, more complex than engine covers. But here too, carbon’s ability to flow energy during deformation and destruction is used to its full potential. And it’s not just about noise and vibrations. If, God forbid, an impact with an “immovable” obstacle happens, the front deformable zone of the body, supported by a carbon part, should work more effectively.

Of course, in relation to the hood, other, more practical properties of carbon plastics are also interesting. In sport, they are used, it is possible to say, with one purpose – to reduce weight. It turns out significant. Such hoods are half the weight of their aluminum counterparts, and compared to steel, the advantage reaches 75% with similar or greater strength!

Even more important for the hood is stiffness: no one will like when the part bends in your hands like a piece of cardboard, and it fits to the body with random gaps. And in order to successfully resist stones and minor damages, stiffer material is desirable. In this parameter, carbon is almost a record-holder among polymer composites!

Beauty is a terrible power!
There is one more characteristic, in which no material can compete with the real carbon at all – it’s appearance. It is simply beautiful. So much so that even special decorative films are produced that imitate its fine texture. However, aesthetics is a subjective matter. It’s possible that the aesthetes are more attracted not to the hoods, but to the new tuning headlights and lights of many European cars. Technicians, perhaps, will be closer to the details of the suspension.

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