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Research Spotlight: Professor Yun-Bo Yi Uses Grant from NSF for Research

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Aurora VanDam

Ritchie School Student Reporter

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Yun-Bo Yi

Professor, Yun-Bo Yi, PhD, at the Ritchie School of Engineering & Computer Science spent his Winter quarter sabbatical working on a grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant is funded for three years with the assistance of four graduate students: two work as research assistants and the other two work as teaching assistants for Yi. He hopes to bridge the gap between material and mechanical research in the innovation of a longer-lasting clutch disc and brake pad for vehicles. Yi has studied thermal elastic instability in vehicles brake and clutch systems for about ten years, with his PhD thesis being on the topic of thermal elastic instability.

The first step, Yi explains, is experimenting to find the correct material(s) that can be both long-lasting and inexpensive. There is a phenomenon in brake pads and clutch discs called “thermal mechanical instability”; essentially, the pads or disc produces hot spots over time due to friction and uneven transfers of heat, causing it to become weaker and needing to be replaced more often. The current goal of Yi’s team is to find a material, or mixture of materials, where these “hot spots” can be reduced or eliminated. They hope to reduce wear and tear over time and to generally create a more reliable brake pad and clutch disc. The overarching goal is to create a material that outlasts the current industry standard brake pad and clutch disc. Yi is working with various large brake manufacturing companies on testing his new materials.

Professor Yun-Bo Yi's prototype

In addition to working toward creating a new material for brake pads and clutch discs, Yi has also produced a user-friendly interface to test thermal instability on pads and discs, aptly named “Hotspotter.” His program is already widely used in the industry and is improving over the course of his grant. The hope in creating this program is that it would allow for the industry to make more accurate predictions on the types of materials needed, as well as the thickness of materials, to create a long-lasting brake pad or clutch disc. Each company has their own secret formula of the material mixture used for their products, and their aim is simply to create the longest lasting product. Yi hopes to perfect the brake pad and clutch disc with his materials research through the grant, as well as with his new method of testing with “Hotspotter.” He is excited to create an improved product along with new and updated research on a very traditional topic. The Ritchie School congratulates Yi on all of his hard work and continues to support the faculty in their pursuit of knowledge and in their efforts of bettering the world.