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APRIL 27, 2006

The march of nanotechnology

It can only be a matter of time before nanotechnology arrives in Formula 1 with a whole range of exciting new materials which can outperform the existing products. Progress in developing these new super-materials has been very rapid in recent years but it is continuing apace with the latest big announcement coming from the University of California at Berkeley where researchers have found a way to organise nanofibres in organised patterns using a technique known as electrospinning.

This means that in future materials made from nanofibres will be able to have much more precise composition and so be designed to do very specific jobs, which will enhance their performance still further. While all of this may sound like an expensive concept, researchers are arguing that with nanotechnology fibres will be so strong and resistant to impact that they will not need to be replaced in the same way as current carbon composites must be and thus over a period of time will be more cost-effective. In racing terms it will be interesting to see if that works out as chassis tend to be redesigned after only a few months of operation and so stronger, longer-lasting chassis may not needed although some of the smaller teams might benefit from the technology.