Automotive enthusiasts and new car buyers are used to seeing reviewers talk about ceramic brakes in high-performance sports cars. Due to their thermal properties, these brakes provide improved performance. However, they aren’t just in high-performance cars anymore. A new industry review indicates that ceramic pads now represent about 60 percent of the market.
Improvements in soldering will be important in the development of performance brake pads. Molded metal shims help minimize wobble and improve clamping ability by keeping more of the pad in contact with the rest of the assembly. However, less expensive pads may only include tape to attach these, so people who expect quality may look to see integrated shims, a design goal which can be accomplished with aluminum soldering.
The other major area where ceramic materials are showing up in the car industry is in batteries for hybrid and electric-only vehicles. The Kia Soul EV, expected to launch in August as a 2015 model, utilizes alloys, graphite, and ceramic separators to improve heat sensitivity. It is unclear from the release whether or not the separator is attached to any part of the cell or rather forms a sandwich with the electrolyte.
However, engineers probably had two goals for the materials used in the cathode, anode, and separator: a similar rate of thermal expansion, as well as a low one. Materials that do not react to heat help improve the reliability of a battery and allow it to store more energy. However, the reason to use ceramics and the alloys as found in the Kia Soul EV are just as important: all of the parts have to fit together and if one had a higher rate of thermal expansion; it could lead to a serious rupture and be potentially dangerous for drivers and passengers.
As alloy engineering improves, the use of low-temperature solder will be critical in ensuring that leads and other parts can be joined regardless of the exotic materials used in the design.