As the 2006 Formula 1TM Australian Grand Prix hits Melbourne from 30 March – 2 April, everyone will be thinking about engines, tyres, cars and speed - including Nanotechnology Victoria. Nanotechnology will have a pervasive effect on the future of automotive products and manufacturing processes.
Performance attributes will be greatly enhanced by sustaining improvements in the structural, electrical, thermal, optical, magnetic and catalytic properties of materials, and their biocompatibility. Nanotechnology can have impacts on monitoring and control systems and new materials.
Improvements to monitoring and control systems includes miniature sensors and motors (MEMS) and sensors for the monitoring of the effectiveness of emission control systems and other environmental needs. Carbon nanotubes could be used in electronics to replace silicon as a semiconductor, and for flat screen display technology. The further development of Advanced Virtual Reality design technologies with telerobotics (with nanotechnology in sensors), multimedia, computer-aided design, process simulation, ergonomics simulation (as in mannequin tools), and computer-generated imagery will also be possible.
Innovation in new materials provides lightweight and stronger materials such as the replacement of existing automobile frames with carbon nanotubes-based alloys. New coloration effects and greater hardness and durability will be possible in paints. Dirt and water resistant fibres and greater strength plastics could be used for interiors as well as self-cleaning glass.
A range of fuel alternatives could also be possible including compact fuel cells for use in new energy-efficient engines, advanced batteries and supercapacitors for energy storage in hybrid electric vehicles. There is also scope for new types of solar cells for use in surface coatings, as an auxiliary source of energy. Nano-catalysts and membrane technology will play critical role in making fuel cells economically viable and replacing the internal combustion engine.
There are approximately 200 components suppliers in Australia and Victoria hosts more than 100 local and international component manufacturers. The major companies in Victoria involved in components manufacturing are Air International, Autoliv, Ajax Fasteners, ACL Mahle, Australian Arrow (Yazaki), Automotive Components Limited, Bosch, Calsonic, Dana, Delphi, Denso,Hella and PBR. The wide range of components that Victoria exports includes: engines, braking equipment, wheels, driveline components, seating, transmissions, air-conditioning equipment and friction material. Automotive design and training services is also a rapidly expanding area in the industry.
Nanotechnology Victoria is not currently active in any specific automotive projects, although developments in materials and manufacturing are being considered. Find out more about nanotechnology industries in Victoria, Australia and explore Nanotechnology Victoria’s projects (www.nanovic.com.au and click onto “Industry & Projects”).