Scientists at Exeter University have teamed up with industry leaders to work on a Government project to create eco-friendly brake pads. Exeter Advanced Technology (X-AT) is investigating ways to use natural crop resources to replace toxic materials in vehicle braking systems. The £400,000 research project will look at alternative fibres, including hemp, jute, nettle and flax in a bid to cut pollution and create improved cost savings.
It is estimated around 20,000 tonnes of toxic brake materials pollute the environment in the UK each year.
The research team based at the university’s School of Engineering and Computer Science have been commissioned by the Department for Trade and Industry on the two-and-a-half month project.
Dr Luke Savage, from X-AT, said: “This process began with the removal of asbestos from brake pads in the 1980s. “Its replacement, Aramid fibre, often known as Kevlar, is very expensive. Eco-friendly alternatives such as jute, hemp, nettle, and flax are all much, much cheaper. The team at X-AT is excited by the possibility of a break-through replacement which will revolutionise brake manufacture and protect the environment.”
He added: “The project will have two main aims to encourage the removal of harmful materials in brake pads, and to create a new market for agricultural crops within the automotive industry.”
Partners involved in the initiative include European Friction Industries, Halfords, and the Eden Project.
Toxic emissions come from braking systems on cars, lorries, trains and trams. It is believed that replacing Kevlar with hemp would make production around 15 times cheaper. Latest figures show some 80 million sets of brake pads and shoes are changed each year creating a £450 million market.
For decades, heavy metal sulphides have been used in friction materials as solid lubricants. However, the European End-of-Vehicle Life Directive bans the use of all lead in vehicles and their replacement parts.
The project is part of the Government’s Sustainable Technologies Initiative, which helps industry develop with the help of academics.
For more information, contact:
The University of Exeter
The Queen’s Drive, Exeter,
Devon, UK EX4 4QJ
Tel: +44-1392-66 10 00
Source: Global Hemp-News vom 2004-03-01.