Zircotec ceramics coatings on Aston Martin One-77
The ceramic based material that originally allowed F1 teams to exploit the ‘blown diffuser’ aerodynamic advantage has made its road car debut on Aston Martin’s One-77. Developed by Oxfordshire-based Zircotec, the ThermoHold® for composites material is applied to both the car’s diffuser and underbonnet air intakes, enabling Aston Martin’s designers to specify lightweight and aesthetic materials for high temperature environments. “Composites are often unsuited to high temperature environments,” says Zircotec’s managing director Terry Graham. “Traditionally this leads to vehicle makers opting for more conservative materials that add weight or they rely on bulky heatshields that ultimately blunt performance. Our discreet ceramic coating protects the One-77 composites components and in the case of the diffuser, enables exhaust gases to pass through, just as they did in F1.”
Zircotec’s coating, proven in F1 and at Le Mans, can lower composite surface temperatures by more than 125˚C, creating opportunities to use composites under the bonnet. “Our coating not only protects the composite induction system from heat but also ensures that the air intake temperature is lower. Moreover, a decrease in this temperature creates a denser charge and is a feature relied upon by many Le Mans racing teams we supply,” adds Graham.
Zircotec’s proprietary process uses a gas plasma flame running at 12,000°C to apply the unique ThermoHold® heat resistant formulation in molten powder form on to the composite components. Unlike paint, Zircotec’s plasma spray application process ensures better adhesion.
As the automotive industry seeks to adopt more composites to achieve higher efficiency, the coating technology pioneered on the Aston Martin One-77 is likely to be adopted by other OEMs. “Engine downsizing is leading to hotter engines with tighter packaging,” suggests Graham. “We are seeing future specifications suggesting underbonnet temperature increases to close to 200˚C. Our coating is a true enabling technology and will enable composites to be considered in this area of the car.”
The fact that it is only used in F1 and supercars might mean that this process is very costly. How could the process cost be reduced in order to use this technology in mass market cars?