Materials & Applications

A Look Into the History and Advantages of Carbon Ceramic Brake Discs

ceramic brake disks

Out of all the different components and systems that make up a modern car, brakes are not as flashy as a turbocharged W16 engine or a “gas guzzling” V12. However, all that power is completely useless if you can’t bring your car to a stop in a safe, controlled manner. Brakes work by converting the kinetic energy of a moving car to heat energy by means of friction. In this article, we’ll look at some of the advantages of modern day carbon ceramic brakes.

In most modern cars, the braking system consists of a disc, calliper, and pads. The calliper houses the pads and upon application of the brake pedal, the pads are squeezed against the disc on two sides, creating friction. The clamping force is transferred from the pedal to the pads by means of a hydraulic system. The heat generated by all this friction is dissipated in part by the disc. This is the reason that discs have grooves and/or holes in them, to allow for better heat transfer.

Ceramic Brakes – A Brief History

Ceramic brake discs were first developed in the 1980s, for the locomotive industry on high-speed trains as well as in various aerospace applications. The technology was then adapted for exotic sports cars like the Enzo Ferrari and later the Bugatti Veyron, and McLaren P1. Ceramic discs work best in these high-performance applications as these vehicles are fast and need to dissipate extreme amounts of energy when stopping. Normal brake discs would simply wear out or warp under these conditions.

carbon ceramic brakes

Materials & Manufacture

Typical brake discs are made of cast iron that is then machined into its final shape. These are heavy and do not last as long as carbon ceramic discs (CCM Discs).

carbon ceramic brakes

Carbon ceramic disc brakes are made of carbon fibre mixed with an epoxy binder and silicon. The discs are manufactured by adding this mixture into a steel mould. Steel inserts are added radially around the mould to create vents in the disc. This epoxy-carbon mixture is then pressed into the mould which is placed in an oven to bind the epoxy and carbon fibres. Thereafter, silicon is added into the central core of the disc. It is placed back into a furnace where all oxygen is removed, the silicon melts and is then drawn into the carbon, creating extremely hard silicon carbide. A few post-production machining operations are performed using diamond coated grinding discs. The completed product is then given a final coating to resist oxidation.

Other disc material compositions include carbon-carbon discs which are used primarily in modern-day formula one cars. These discs consist of carbon fibre in a matrix of graphite. There are also various configurations of carbon ceramic discs, but the overall principle remains the same.

6 Key Advantages of Carbon Ceramic Brakes

Some of the benefits of carbon ceramic brake discs over more traditional brake systems are as follows:

  • Longer lasting

CCM discs typically last much longer than traditional cast iron discs. This is due in part to the high strength and wear-resistance of the ceramic/carbon mix.

  • Higher thermal conductivity

Carbon Ceramic brakes dissipate more heat than traditional brakes and as a result, they can evacuate the heat generated from the braking action more efficiently. This makes them ideal for heavy high-performance cars.

  • Cleaner

Normal brakes create a sticky black dust that tends to accumulate on the wheel. This is difficult to remove. Carbon ceramic brakes generate a fine white dust that does not dirty the wheel.

  • Quieter

Carbon ceramic brakes are much quieter than normal brakes.

  • Lighter

Carbon Ceramic brakes are significantly lighter than their cast iron counterparts, up to 70% lighter.

  • More corrosion resistant

Due to the materials that make up a carbon ceramic disc, they tend to be more resistant to the elements.

In conclusion, ceramic brakes offer a large range of benefits over their cast iron counterparts. It’s also worth remembering that they’re not just used in the automotive sector, and in fact, were originally developed for the rail and aerospace industries. So any engineer or product designer who is looking at different options when it comes to brake technology should consider whether ceramic brakes are a viable option.


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