BAC Awarded Funding for Research Into Niobium Alloys

BAC has been awarded funding by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) for a project to implement niobium alloys in its chassis and suspension systems.

The project is sponsored by Brazilian metallurgical concern CBMM, supplier of technology to the Extreme E racing series. CBMM specialises in niobium extraction, processing, and integration into technology.

Niobium is a chemical element with some unusual properties and applications in aerospace and nuclear research. In automotive spheres, high-strength steels commonly have small quantities of niobium, but alloys with more significant amounts of niobium tend to be the preserve of jet and rocket engines.

Including niobium in steel alloys confers higher heat resistance and wear resistance, and these alloys tend to be lighter than regular steel too. Inconel, a nickel-chromium alloy used in car turbochargers and exhaust systems, commonly includes 3-5% niobium too.

BAC will be investigating if high-percentage niobium alloys can be used to replace steel components in the car’s tubular structure, producing a stronger but lighter chassis as the company pursues even more extreme ways of shaving weight off the 570kg Mono supercar. It already uses ultra-lightweight graphene-enhanced carbon fibre in the car’s body.

Once the feasibility study is completed, BAC will produce a structural prototype including the niobium alloy, with a view to advancing it to full production on future cars.

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