Elastomer keeps college racer hugging curves

Feb. 21, 2008
A tiny elastomeric bearing seal was key to helping Jayhawk Motorsports, the racecar team from the University of Kansas (KU), build a formula-style racecar that handles easily.

The seal serves in the suspension system shock absorbers. KU School of Engineering students run the car in the Society of Automotive Engineers annual Formula Car Challenge.

Bearings in the shock absorbers keep them on a parallel path and ensure the shock moves smoothly and accurately. Bearing seals prevent water, oil and dirt from entering the bearings so they operate reliably.

American High Performance Seals, Oakdale, Pa., developed bearing seals that would let the shock absorbers withstand pressures of 650 psi. The company modified a swivel seal typically used in robotics and manipulator applications, where precision is crucial. The two part-seal takes oscillations of 5 radians/sec over a tenth of a second.

The seal energizer is made from the company's proprietary Duralast elastomers formulated for use in extreme operating conditions. The company used another proprietary material, Permachem elastomer, for the sealing element. The ultra-high-performance engineering plastic is for environments where temperatures or the medium would destroy traditional seal materials.

Obviously, suspension systems absorb and dissipate energy from bumpy roads so the steering system won't vibrate. They also transfer weight when the racer enters and exits a curve and determines how fast it can corner and keeps the tires in contact with the ground. This maximizes the racer's steering, braking and acceleration ability.

Shock absorbers play a key role in suspension system performance. They turn the kinetic energy of suspension movement into pressure in the shock absorber hydraulic cylinders. The faster the suspension moves, the more resistance to movement the shock absorber provides. The more efficient the shock absorbers, the more controllable the car and the faster it can corner.

The redesigned seal is credited with helping the 2007 team consistently rank among the top ten in international design competitions where their suspension system and use of materials took home innovative design honors.

More Information:
American High Performance Seals

Bearing seals serve in the suspension system shock absorbers.

KU School of Engineering students run the formula-style racecar in the Society of Automotive Engineers annual Formula Car Challenge.

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