Segmented Rotor-Disc Brakes on Modern Aircraft


Unlike early aircraft— which merely required a rough surface to land—  modern aircraft are required to have a fully functioning braking system to ensure a safe and full stop. The basic function of an aircraft brake part is to slow and stop the plane on the tarmac. Just as you push down the brake in an automatic car to stop it from moving forward at a red light, the brakes on an aircraft also allow a pilot to hold the plane on the tarmac before take-off or during taxi.

Brakes function using a basic principle of creating heat energy by interrupting the kinetic energy of the plane in motion. When a moving part comes into contact with a stationary object, friction is created. The friction often results in heat energy being released. Depending on the size and type of the aircraft, the brake cylinder can consist of multiple brake pads and rotating disks, or a single rotating disk with one stationary caliper.

In a common brake system, the pilot is able to push or activate a hydraulic or mechanical system that, in turn, applies pressure on the brakes. A pilot will have two separate pedals or rudders that control the left and right brake. In light aircraft, a simple brake mechanism is efficient enough to safely stop and land the plane. When the pilot activates the mechanical system, the single disc brake, consisting of one rotating element, is slowed down by a light squeezing on each side in the form of a fixed stationary caliper. While this type of aviation braking system is sufficient with a light aircraft with a light load, it is not suitable for larger commercial or military aircraft.

The type and function of the aircraft should be considered when fitting the brake system. Certain braking systems are more adept at converting kinetic energy into heat energy, but struggle to dissipate the heat. Vice versa, some braking systems struggle to convert energy, but can efficiently disperse off the heat.

The larger the plane, the more friction is needed to ground it. The large amount of heat that is generated in the braking process can be dangerous and therefore problematic for aircraft manufacturers. The braking system of an aircraft could be damaged if the heat is not correctly spread out across the system. Aircrafts employ different types of cooling methods to spread and disperse off the heat generated. Segmented rotor brake systems were developed to overcome the issue of the large amounts of heat generated in the slowing process. The segmented rotor brake system consists of a series of multiple rotating plates that are sandwiched between stationary brake pads. As the brake pads touch the rotating disks, they briefly interrupt the rotation, converting the kinetic energy to heat. The segmented brakes are designed with spaces in between each brake pad and disc to allow the excess heat to escape.


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