Claudio Nidasio interviews Giovanni Straffelini
Synergy, innovation and international expertise are the key strengths of Lowbrasys (a LOW environmental impact BRAke SYStem), a new research project involving the University of Trento that aims to develop a novel low environmental impact braking system. The project, which has obtained funding from the prestigious EU Horizon 2020 research funding programme with a grant of €7 million, comes from the collaboration of a group of industrial and academic partners. We talk with the local team leader Giovanni Straffelini, full professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering at the University of Trento.
Professor Straffelini, can you summarize the main objectives of the Lowbrasys project?
The aim of Lowbrasys is twofold: to develop an intelligent system in which we can apply materials that are more efficient from the point of view of particulate emissions, and to develop a “smart” braking system. This is important because braking produces tiny wear particles, most of which fall to the ground, or as we know, onto our wheel rims. But many, the smallest particles, remain in the air, and then we breathe them. The aim therefore is to study driving instruments, behaviors and procedures that produce fewer emissions into the air from the braking system, by developing a new generation of technologies, materials, advice and proposals for legislation that can improve the impact of driving on health and on the environment.
Lowbrasys will create an intelligent system in which materials can be developed and applied that are more efficient from the point of view of particulate emissions in order to create a highly intelligent braking system. The project also aims to study tools, behaviors and procedures to determine how we can drive better to reduce emissions.
The project won a grant from the Horizon 2020 programme under the “Mobility for Growth” call, financed by the European Commission. What impact could the results of the project have at a European level?
We hope that the project will have a significant impact in Europe, as it guides innovation towards cleaner and more efficient transport. In addition, it aims to contribute to the transition to zero emission vehicles in urban areas to improve the quality of the air in cities in the medium term, with the creation of a 'Super Low Emission Vehicles' standard. The project will also try to improve our understanding of the braking system process to make it more efficient from an environmental point of view.
The project involves a partnership of public and private organizations, made up of universities, research centers and industry. What skills do the different parties contribute?
Five of the leading companies in the automotive industry and five of the most important research institutes and universities have collaborated to establish this project. It’s the result of a collaboration between Brembo, who are a global leader in the design, development and production of braking systems, Ford, Continental Teves, Federal Mogul, and Flame Spray, together with the Mario Negri Institute, involved in biomedical research and research into the impact of pollution on the environment and health, the Technical University of Ostrava, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, the Department of Industrial Engineering at the University of Trento, and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. Also involved is the Kilometro Rosso Science and Technology Park, which hosts two of the ten partners in the project (Brembo, the project leader, and the Mario Negri Institute).
From a technical point of view, what are the skills that come into play?
Lowbrasys is a pre-industrial development project that looks at the current production process for braking systems and the use of vehicles on the road, and goes on to work in various areas: reduction, prevention, simulation, tests, validation and recommendations. It’s a rigorous process aiming to identify intelligent materials and systems that, when combined with good driver behavior, can lead to a 50% reduction in particulates.
The main technologies that will be developed are new materials for brake discs and brake pads, to reduce the particles and their impact; a new strategy for controlling the braking system; and a revolutionary technology for capturing micro and nano particles close to where they are emitted, to prevent them from being dispersed into the air. Lowbrasys will also develop an approach that integrates the new braking system, the components, and the system control that will be installed on the dashboard; improve measurement techniques and knowledge of the effect of materials on the braking system; and study best practice in driving behavior.
As part of this research project a workshop will be held in Trento at the Department of Industrial Engineering (29-30 September 2016) for the exchange of technical and scientific analysis and findings. The title of the workshop is “New materials and technology for disc-pad brake systems”.