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Embedding pistons with a blend of carbon fibre and solid lubricants may be the next big thing

In modern engines, friction still accounts for nearly 20 per cent of all engine losses, well over half of which can be attributed to the parasitic friction which occurs between the piston and the cylinder bore, and the piston and the gudgeon pin. And in a time when reducing emissions, increasing fuel efficiency and improving wear resistance has never been more important to both manufacturers and consumers, finding efficient and effective ways to reduce friction loss can have big impacts on everyone’s bottom line.

Federal Mogul, which is the parent company of Ferodo Racing, has come up with a new low-friction piston coating for pistons used in automotive petrol engines called EcoTough, which it says outperforms any other friction-reducing product in terms of improving fuel consumption and emissions while achieving better wear resistance. While the technology currently appears to be confined to the automotive sector, it’s only a matter of time before the firm’s technology trickles down to the motorcycle segment, presumably through its motorcycle racing component arm, Ferodo Racing.
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What it is?

In motorcycle circles we and to think of a lubricant as being a liquid: engine oil, chain lube and even water dispersers. But the newly developed EcoTough coating is a metal oxide-reinforced resin that includes additional solid lubricant particles which Federal Mogul has then cleverly embedded into both the piston skirt and gudgeon pin in a bid to reduce friction and all the negative byproducts associated with it. The firm’s chief engineer of its piston group, Arnd Baberg, explains the new friction-loss coating as a blend of solid lubricants and carbon fibre. He also points out that as forced induction becomes more popular, the need for this technology increases as it assists with the higher engine heat produced.

What does it do?

According to Federal Mogul, the piston skirt and gudgeon pin account for around 17 per cent of the frictional losses experienced by modern internal combustion engines. hi-tech coatings are not uncommon and have been an effective way to reduce friction for many years – an electroplated coating of a nickel and silicon carbide blend (Nikasil) has created extremely hard and smooth surfaces, especially on lighter, but softer, cast aluminium cylinders. Other examples include dry film lubricants, anodising and all sorts of coatings applied at either point of manufacture or as a performance-enhancing engine modification.

How effective is it?

Baberg says: “The friction losses were evaluated in engine tests and we found out that our new EcoTough coating reduces the friction losses by 18 per cent over our standard pistons. The wear resistance is significantly improved, we improved the wear behaviour by 40 per cent.” As well as this, the firm claims a single application has reduced fuel consumption by 0.8 percent as compared to conventional piston coatings. And in European driving tests, carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by up to 0.4 per cent.

By Kel Buckley