Scientists and engineers at the University
of Exeter are investigating whether hemp and other natural materials could
be used to make sustainable and eco-friendly brake pads. The £400,000
research project will be carried out for the DTI by Exeter Advanced Technologies
(X-AT), which is based at the University. Eight other partners from the automotive
and crop industries will take part.
Currently 20,000 tonnes of brake materials pollute the environment in the UK
each year. Pollution occurs not just from cars and lorries but from tube trains,
trains and trams. Alternative natural fibres, like hemp and sisal, will cut
pollution and create cost savings. For instance, replacing Kevlar with hemp
would make production cheaper by a multiple of at least fifteen.
Dr. Luke Savage of 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.'
The project has two main aims: to encourage the removal of harmful materials
used in brake pads, and to create a new market for agricultural crops within
the automotive industry.
There will be major cost savings for the automotive industry if X-AT and its
partners can find a workable alternative to the Kevlar (Aramid), lead and antimony
used in brakes. Kevlar is expensive at £14 to 20 per kg compared to hemp
and sisal at under £1.
There are 80 million sets of brake pads / shoes changed on UK vehicles each
year. The replacement parts market for brakes (shoes and pads) is £450
million - based on 2001 figures.
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