I have discussed previously my misreading of how carbon nanotubes in professional cycling would be limited by the UCI weight restrictions on bicycles. They may not have made the carbon fiber frames that make up the high-end race bikes seen in the Tour de France any lighter, but at the same weight they likely made them stronger. As a result, many of the bikes used in professional cycling have some carbon nanotubes in the materials that make up the frame.
The rules and regulations governing professional motor sport, especially Formula 1, make the weight restrictions of the UCI look like child’s play. Nonetheless the smallest technological advantage in a Formula 1 car can make the difference between World Championships and also-rans. So, there is always market pull in racing for the latest technology.
While I don’t usually write about conferences until after the event so as not to provide unintended promotion, I was struck by this press release over at Nanowerk. Apparently, The Centre of Excellence in Metrology for Micro and Nanotechnologies, is planning a conference this month at Cranfield University on the topic of how nanotechnologies (i.e. from nanomaterials in composites to microscopy) are further enabling innovation in motor sport.
While it seems there is reason for nanotechnologies to be investigated for use in motor sport, it’s not clear from the program whether this is the current state of affairs, or just could be.In fact, the agenda seems to offer an odd hodgepodge of topics that seem tangentially related to nanotechnology in motor sport, but don’t offer up something like “McLaren’s use of carbon nanotubes in chasis manufacturing”. Instead we get “Low Carbon Vehicle Initiative and Funding Opportunities”. That doesn’t sound very sporting to me. I know a thing or two about conferences having produced a few of them myself and one thing you ask yourself when you’re putting together the agenda is: “Who is the audience?” For this one, I couldn’t tell you. But for my part my interest would be to see some cool looking Formula 1 cars or even just parts. The nanotechnology bit, not so much.
Dexter Johnson is a contributing editor at IEEE Spectrum, with a focus on nanotechnology.