Miniature three-way, high-flow solenoid valves for F1 cars

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Lee Products has developed a special version of its three-way, high-flow solenoid valve for use in F1 cars racing in the 2011 season with driver-activated rear wings.

Miniature three-way, high-flow solenoid valves for F1 carsFormula 1 motor racing technology is constantly evolving so teams can gain an advantage, as well complying with ever-changing rules and regulations. An example of this is the decision to allow the use of driver-activated rear wings for 2011, which are set for a return to Formula 1 no less than 40 years after they were banned on safety grounds in the 1960s. This decision was made at a recent meeting of the sports governing body, the FIA World Motor Sport Council, with the objective of allowing more overtaking in F1.

One of the beneficiaries of this decision is Lee Products; over the past few years the company has sold hundreds of solenoid valves to F1 teams for a wide range of applications. These include fuel flap, emergency clutch disengage, reverse gear selection, power steering, auxiliary lube oil tank top-up applications, as well as front wing control. In fact Lee Products specifically developed its 250 series solenoid valve at the request of its F1 customers and this was subsequently homologated by the FIA for use in F1.

The active front wings had a trailing edge that could be adjusted by the driver to increase downforce during braking. Active front wings were a feature on F1 cars for the 2010 season but have now been banned for the 2011 season, to be replaced by the active rear wing. Drivers will be able to control the rear wing once they have been behind another driver for a set amount of time, thereby reducing drag on the straight and allowing greater opportunity for overtaking.

Modified valve design

These wings are raised and lowered by a large-diameter hydraulic actuator that needs to move very quickly and therefore demands a fast-acting, high-flow valve to control it. To facilitate this, Lee Products has developed a 12V DC version of its three-way high-flow solenoid valve specifically for this purpose and several F1 teams have specified the valve for this function. This modified valve can operate at much higher temperatures, up to 165degC. Also, the original retaining nut has been removed to save space and reduce weight, while the lead wires now exit from the rear of the valve instead of at the hydraulic end.

Lee Products' miniature three-way, high-flow solenoid valves are a natural evolution of the proven piloted solenoid valves, which were said to set new standards in reducing space, weight and power consumption. Valve elements are based on the low-leakage, high-reliability designs used in Lee check and shuttle valves. Functions and features include: two position, three-way, 3000psi, 4.0 USGPM minimum flow at 3000psid (300 Lohms), single coil, and an integral safety screen with 0.004 inch hole size. Power consumption is 7.8W at 18-32V DC, and they can operate within a -54 to +135degC temperature range. Special 12V DC versions are also available for motorsport applications.

These solenoid valves are part of Lee Products' extensive range of plugs, restrictors, check valves, relief valves, shuttle valves, filter screens and flow controls, which are all being used in current F1 cars and engines.

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