How Motorcycling Has Benefited From Massive Science



Kevin Cameron has been writing about motorcycles for nearly 50 years, first for <em>Cycle magazine</em> and, since 1992, for <em>Cycle World</em>.

Kevin Cameron has been writing about bikes for almost 50 years, first for <em>Cycle journal</em> and, since 1992, for <em>Cycle World</em>. (Robert Martin/)

The really fantastic bike tires of at the moment and the outstanding tire efficiency we see in MotoGP are alike primarily based on realizing find out how to make rubber polymers chemically bond to tiny particles of silica (which is silicon dioxide) in tire tread compounds. Previously, tread rubber has been strengthened by mixing into it effective carbon black, however since 1992 it has develop into attainable to attain even higher properties by together with effective silica particles. The long-chain molecules of rubber, linked by attaching to those reinforcing particles, kind a robust community within the rubber that may obtain excessive grip with no correspondingly excessive fee of damage.

That is an achievement of floor chemistry. Silica and rubber polymer usually have little attraction for one another, however chemists have since 1965 developed so-called “coupling brokers” that may overcome such incompatibility. In a typical coupling agent, one a part of the molecule attaches to the inorganic silicon whereas one other half is ready to bond to the natural polymer (rubber, on this case) matrix.

The unique drawback that stimulated analysis of this type was the weak point of the earliest fiberglass (1940). Being each gentle and powerful, fiberglass appeared promising, however moisture attacked the bond between plastic resin and the glass floor, inflicting structural failure.

In 1948 Pratt & Whitney engineers thought of manufacture of superior supercharger impellers fabricated from fiberglass as an alternative of the standard cast aluminum, however at the moment, resin-to-glass bond failure remained a thriller. The ultralight impeller idea needed to be dropped.

In 1954 a Supplies Advisory Board was organized beneath the US Nationwide Academies. In 1965 the MAB printed report 214-M, which “suggested” that main issues in floor chemistry had been too lengthy ignored (15 years), delaying growth of many attainable new supplies. It known as for a analysis program using 50 senior scientists over a five-year program to seek out options.

Why was a authorities company doing this? What occurred to the free market? Personal enterprise usually has its palms full with manufacturing. Cash managers develop into nervous at playing costly R&D towards the uncertainty of revenue which will accrue at a later time.

Within the late Sixties I used to be stunned to learn in regards to the growth of weight-saving superior composite wing flaps for a serious new airliner. When some flaps developed bond issues, evaluation revealed that cotton fibers from the white gloves worn by fabrication personnel had integrated themselves into laminates, appearing as wicks for atmospheric moisture that attacked the fiber-to-resin bond.

The analysis advisable by the Supplies Advisory Board was growth of a variety of coupling brokers capable of bond to a glass, carbon fiber, or different inorganic surfaces, and to the resin or polymer matrix. Such coupling brokers at the moment are to be present in an excellent many purposes.

After having a cavity stuffed by my dentist, I requested her if a primer of some variety was essential to make the polymeric filling keep on with my tooth materials.

“Why sure,” she mentioned. “We use a silane coupling agent.”

Silane coupling brokers in tires? In carbon fiber composites? In my enamel?

In my collateral studying after a current knee substitute, I discovered that associated chemistry is included in what I now consider as “Bone Bondo”—the methacrylate-based bedding compound that joins the surgical implants to my bones.

One such bifunctional agent is abbreviated “TESPT” as a result of its chemical title is 37 characters lengthy. It’s our luck that chemists are capable of make sense of such issues.

Continually cited in current rubber compounding literature is slightly ebook entitled Silane Coupling Brokers, by Edwin Plueddemann, a person who spent his 35-year profession at Dow Corning creating methods of sticking dissimilar supplies collectively. His 1991 second version continues to be in such demand that reprints go for as a lot as $278.

One thing New in GP Roadracing

In 1992 veteran GP roadrace engineer Erv Kanemoto (he labored with Freddie Spencer throughout his Nineteen Eighties world championships) observed one thing new. Scrubbed-in racing slicks have all the time had a black and barely moist or oily look, however he was now seeing some tires that scrubbed-in with a grey, dry look.

This was the forefront of Michelin’s “Inexperienced Tire,” developed for the auto trade. The black-and-oily treads had been conventionally strengthened by carbon black, however the dry-looking grey treads additionally contained silica as a reinforcing agent.

Silane coupling brokers had made this variation attainable.

The Magic Triangle of Tire Properties

Previously, the “magic triangle” of tire properties—moist grip, rolling resistance, and put on life—had imposed inflexible compromises. If you happen to made tread rubber softer to extend grip (as is completed in racing with extra-soft “qualifying tires”), you sacrificed put on life and elevated rolling resistance. If you happen to made the tread compound tougher to make tires put on longer, you sacrificed grip.

Silane coupling agents made it possible to incorporate silica into tires.

Silane coupling brokers made it attainable to include silica into tires. (MotoGP/)

The brand new silica know-how has damaged these compromises, rising grip by as a lot as 20 %, lowering rolling resistance by a like quantity, and sacrificing nothing in put on life. The driving power behind this variation has been the automakers’ persevering with efforts to scale back the vitality consumption of their merchandise. The brand new silica-based tread rubbers have diminished tire rolling resistance sufficient to chop auto gas consumption by a number of %.

For motorcyclists, the vital profit has been the as much as 20 % improve in tire grip, particularly within the moist.

Hysteresis—Rubber’s Inner Friction

A lot of a tire’s rolling resistance comes from the inner friction of rubber itself, which engineers name “hysteresis.” But hysteresis can be important to most tire grip. This implied that lowering rolling resistance should additionally lower grip—an unacceptable consequence.

The Backside Line

When coupling brokers able to chemically bonding rubber to silica grew to become accessible, it grew to become attainable to create rubber compounds whose hysteresis diversified with the frequency of the deformation cycle. Such compounds can have very low hysteresis loss at tire rolling frequency (roughly 14 cycles per second at 65 mph), but show grip-boosting excessive hysteresis on the very excessive frequencies of rubber sliding towards the micro-profile of pavement.

Thank the US Supplies Advisory Board and their long-ago curiosity in making fiberglass extra sturdy:

“The mission of the Nationwide Supplies and Manufacturing Board is to offer to the nation goal and unbiased technical and coverage assessments on supplies and manufacturing. The function of the board encompasses strategic planning, program growth, and administrative oversight of research and different actions initiated beneath its auspices on the NRC.” (NRC is the Nationwide Analysis Council).