There are approximately 200 automotive components suppliers in Australia and the state of Victoria hosts more than 100 local and international component manufacturers. The majority of the largest component manufacturers are foreign owned and subsidiaries of the major international companies. According to an IBS report, the total turnover for the Australian component sector was slightly less than $5 billion in 2000-01 with Victoria having a significant share with 57% of the total production and 68% of the total component exports of A$ 1.6 billion.
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.
Opportunities for Nanotechnology
Nanotechnology is expected to have a pervasive effect on the future of automotive products and manufacturing processes in the automotive industry. Over time, these "new" performance attributes will be greatly enhanced by sustaining improvements in the structural, electrical, thermal, optical, magnetic and catalytic properties of materials, and their biocompatibility.
Broad areas within the automotive industry where nanotechnology can be adopted include monitoring and control systems as well as innovative new materials.
Monitoring and Control Systems
- Micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) are miniature sensors and motors about the size of a dust particle. They can be implanted as indicators of stress and corrosion rates in materials, or on the surface of truck bodies to reduce drag and increase aerodynamic efficiency.
- High power switches in ignition devices.
- Electronics could be developed by using nanotubes to replace silicon as a semiconductor. Other possibilities include the self-assembly of nanoscale electronic components, and nanoelectronics based on quantum effects.
- Carbon nanotubes could be used for flat screen display technology in electronic display screens.
- Advanced Virtual Reality design technologies combine telerobotics (with nanotechnology in sensors), multimedia, computer-aided design, process simulation, ergonomics simulation (as in mannequin tools) and computer-generated imagery. These technologies increase the speed and reduce the cost of new vehicle designs.
- Nanotechnology incorporated into sensors and monitoring devices provides on-board diagnostic indicators used to increase the efficiency of maintenance and repair activities in relation to mechanical parts and tyres.
- Sensors incorporating nanotechnology could be used for the monitoring of the effectiveness of emission control systems and other environmental needs.
- Automated vehicle control (AVC) systems are on-board technologies geared towards traffic safety. They can assist drivers in obstacle detection, anti-collision sensing and infrared sensing for night driving. More advanced AVC technologies allow for automated driving. Nanotechnology has a role to play in the sensing devices used in this technology, and in advanced radar technology.
New Materials to Improve Performance and Reduce Cost
- New, light weight and stronger materials such as surface coatings, ultra-strong lightweight materials, and thin layers on bearings and gliding elements. These materials have uses in vehicle bodies, suspensions, brake fittings, sway bars and wheels. The replacement of existing automobile frames with carbon nanotubes-based alloys will provide for high strength and reduced weight.
- A range of fuel alternatives cold be possible including compact fuel cells for use in new energy-efficient engines, advanced batteries and supercapacitors for energy storage in hybrid electric vehicles and 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.
- New ceramics incorporating nanotechnology used in motor parts.
- Nanoparticles for use in catalytic processes are relevant to improved internal combustion exhaust control.
- Improved vibration dampeners based on magnetic nanofluids.
- New electrostatic filters incorporating nanotechnology.
- The use of nanofluids in new types of coolants.
- Nanoparticles as paint additives to get new coloration effects and greater hardness and durability in materials. Additionally, nano-polymer composite panels in automobile frames will enable electrostatic painting, which will greatly reduce the paint costs and environmental issues.
- Nanotechnology used in new plastics that have greater strength.
- Nanotechnology can be used to bind fibres tightly enough to be resistant to dirt and water. The conductive property of fabrics used in car seats can be improved by the use of nanoparticles of metals such as silver and nickel.
- Nanotechnology can be used to control the optical properties of glass to pass only desired frequencies of light and provide self-cleaning properties.
- Nanomaterials can be used to replace toxic reagents and to reduce waste during manufacturing (so-called "exact" manufacturing). Nano-scale metal oxide ceramic catalysts will further reduce harmful emissions.
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