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A brake is a mechanical device that inhibits motion by absorbing energy from a

moving system. It is used for slowing or stopping a moving vehicle, wheel, axle, or
to prevent its motion, most often accomplished by means of friction.

The science of stopping

If you're moving, you have energy kinetic energy to be precise. Kinetic energy is
simply the energy an object possesses
because it has
both mass and velocity (speed in a
certain direction). The more mass you
have (effectively, the heavier you are)
and the faster you're going, the more
kinetic energy you have.
That's all well and good, but what if
you suddenly need to stop? To change
from moving quickly to not moving
at all, you have to get rid of your
kinetic energy.
If you're jumping from an airplane, the best way to lose energy is with a parachute.
This giant sack of fabric drags behind you, slowing you down, reducing your
velocity, and therefore helping to get rid of your kinetic energy. That means you
can land safely. Drag-racing cars and land speed record cars also use parachutes to
stop but, in practice, most vehicles simply use brakes.

Different brakes for different machines

From cars and trucks to planes and trains, brakes work in a similar way on most
different vehicles. There are even brakes in wind turbines! Here's a quick
comparison of some common brake systems.
If you ride a bicycle, you know all about brakes. If you want to stop suddenly, you
squeeze the brake levers on the handlebars. Thin metal cables running to the back
and front wheels pull on small callipers, forcing thick rubber blocks to press
against the wheels. As they do so, friction between the blocks and the metal wheel

rims generates heat, reducing your kinetic energy, and bringing you safely to a
Steam locomotive
The brakes on a steam locomotive work the same way as a
car's and are even more obvious. You can see the brake
just behind the wheel in this photo. It clamps against the
locomotive's driving wheels to slow them down. Since
there are no tires on the wheels, the friction that stops the
train comes from the immense weight of the locomotive
pressing the metal wheels down onto the track.
Motorcycles typically have disc brakes comprising a rotor
and a brake block. The rotor is a disc with holes (or slots)
in it mounted on the side of the wheel. A brake pad,
operated by a cable, jams against the rotor to slow it down
by friction. The holes in the rotor help to dissipate the heat

Airplanes have brakes inside their wheels to help bring them
to a stop on the runway, but they can also use air brakes to
increase drag (air resistance) and slow themselves downa
bit like parachutes.

A closer look at car brakes

Most cars have two or three different types of braking systems. Peer through the
hubcap of a car's front wheels and you can usually see a shiny metal disc just
inside. This is called a disc brake. When the driver steps on the brake pedal, a pad
of hard-wearing material clamps onto the brake disc and rubs it to make it slow
downin a similar way to bicycle brakes.
Some cars have disc brakes on all four wheels, but many have drum brakes on the
back wheels, which work in a slightly different way. Instead of the disc and brake

block, they have shoes inside the hollow wheel hub that press outwards. As the
shoes push into the wheel, friction slows you down. A car's handbrake applies the
two rear brakes (disc or drum) in a slower, less forceful way when you pull on a
lever located between the front seats. A speeding car has loads of energy and, when
you stop, virtually all of it is converted into heat in the brake pads. The brakes can
heat to temperatures of 500C (950F) or more! That's why brakes have to be made
of materials that won't melt, such as alloys, ceramics, or composites.

How car brakes work?

In theories
Imagine how much force you need to stop a fast-moving car. Simply pressing with
your foot would not generate enough force to apply all four brakes hard enough to
bring you quickly to a stop. That's why brakes use hydraulics: a system of fluidfilled pipes that can multiply force and transmit it easily from one place to another.
When you press on the brake pedal, your foot moves a lever that forces a piston
into a long, narrow cylinder filled with hydraulic fluid. As the piston plunges into
the cylinder, it squirts hydraulic fluid out through a long and narrow pipe at the end
(much like squirting a syringe). The narrow pipe feeds into much wider cylinders
positioned next to the car's four brakes. Because the cylinders near the brakes are
much wider than the one near the brake pedal, the force you originally applied is
multiplied greatly, clamping the brakes hard to the wheels.
In practice...

Your foot pushes on the brake pedal.

As the pedal moves down, it pushes a class 2 lever (a kind of simple
machine), increasing your pushing force.
The lever pushes a piston (blue) into a narrow cylinder filled with hydraulic
brake fluid (red). As the piston moves into the cylinder, it squeezes hydraulic fluid
out of the end (like a bicycle pump squeezes out air).
The brake fluid squirts down a long, thin pipe until it reaches another
cylinder at the wheel, which is much wider.
When the fluid enters the cylinder, it pushes the piston in the wider cylinder
(blue) with greatly increased force.

The piston pushes the brake pad (green) toward the brake disc (gray).

When the brake pad touches the brake disc, friction between the two
generates heat (red cloud).

The friction slows down the outer wheel and tire, stopping the car.

The brake pedal actually operates four separate hydraulic lines running to all four
wheels. We're just showing one wheel here for simplicity.

Who invented hydraulic brakes?

Malcolm Loughead of Detroit, Michigan invented "fluid-operated" (hydraulic)
brakes in 1919and here's one of his improved designs from the mid-1920s. It
uses the momentum (moving power) of the car to provide the force that pushes the
hydraulic piston into the cylinder, giving a kind of power-assisted braking.
Loughead and his brother Allan were airplane pioneers and the founders of the
Lockheed Corporation (originally known as the Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing

Most brakes commonly use friction between two surfaces pressed together to
convert the kinetic energy of the moving object into heat, though other methods of
energy conversion may be employed. For example, regenerative braking converts
much of the energy to electrical energy, which may be stored for later use. Other
methods convert kinetic energy into potential energy in such stored forms as
pressurized air or pressurized oil. Eddy current brakes use magnetic fields to
convert kinetic energy into electric current in the brake disc, fin, or rail, which is
converted into heat. Still other braking methods even transform kinetic energy into
different forms, for example by transferring the energy to a rotating flywheel.
Brakes are generally applied to rotating axles or wheels, but may also take other
forms such as the surface of a moving fluid (flaps deployed into water or air).
Some vehicles use a combination of braking mechanisms, such as drag racing cars
with both wheel brakes and a parachute, or airplanes with both wheel brakes and
drag flaps raised into the air during landing. Since kinetic energy increases
quadratically with velocity (K = mv2/2 ), an object moving at 10 m/s has 100 times
as much energy as one of the same mass moving at 1 m/s, and consequently the
theoretical braking distance, when braking at the traction limit, is 100 times as
long. In practice, fast vehicles usually have significant air drag, and energy lost to
air drag rises quickly with speed. Almost all wheeled vehicles have a brake of
some sort. Even baggage carts and shopping carts may have them for use on a
moving ramp. Most fixed-wing aircraft are fitted with wheel brakes on the
undercarriage. Some aircraft also feature air brakes designed to reduce their speed

in flight. Notable examples include gliders and some World War II-era aircraft,
primarily some fighter aircraft and many dive bombers of the era. These allow the
aircraft to maintain a safe speed in a steep descent. The Saab B 17 dive bomber and
Vought F4U Corsair fighter used the deployed undercarriage as an air brake.
Friction brakes on automobiles store braking heat in the drum brake or disc brake
while braking then conduct it to the air gradually. When traveling downhill some
vehicles can use their engines to brake. When the brake pedal of a modern vehicle
with hydraulic brakes is pushed against the master cylinder, ultimately a piston
pushes the brake pad against the brake disc which slows the wheel down. On the
brake drum it is similar as the cylinder pushes the brake shoes against the drum
which also slows the wheel down.

Brakes may be broadly described as using friction, pumping, or electromagnetics.
One brake may use several principles: for example, a pump may pass fluid through
an orifice to create friction:

1. Frictional brakes are most common and can be divided broadly into shoe or
pad brakes, using an explicit wear surface, and hydrodynamic brakes, such as
parachutes, which use friction in a working
fluid and do not explicitly wear. Typically
the term friction brake is used to mean
pad/shoe brakes and excludes hydrodynamic
brakes, even though hydrodynamic brakes
use friction. Friction (pad/shoe) brakes are
often rotating devices with a stationary pad
and a rotating wear surface. Common
configurations include shoes that contract to
rub on the outside of a rotating drum, such
as a band brake; a rotating drum with shoes that expand to rub the inside of a drum,
commonly called a "drum brake", although other drum configurations are possible;
and pads that pinch a rotating disc, commonly called a "disc brake". Other brake
configurations are used, but less often. For example, PCC trolley brakes include a
flat shoe which is clamped to the rail with an electromagnet; the Murphy brake
pinches a rotating drum, and the Ausco Lambert disc brake uses a hollow disc (two
parallel discs with a structural bridge) with shoes that sit between the disc surfaces
and expand laterally. A drum brake is a vehicle brake in which the friction is
caused by a set of brake shoes that press against the inner surface of a rotating
drum. The drum is connected to the rotating road wheel hub. The disc brake is a
device for slowing or stopping the rotation of a road wheel. A brake disc (or rotor
in U.S. English), usually made of cast iron or ceramic, is connected to the wheel or
the axle. To stop the wheel, friction material in the form of brake pads (mounted in
a device called a brake calliper) is forced mechanically, hydraulically,
pneumatically or electromagnetically against both sides of the disc. Friction causes
the disc and attached wheel to slow or stop.
2. Pumping brakes are often used where a pump is already part of the machinery.
For example, an internal-combustion piston motor can have the fuel supply
stopped, and then internal pumping losses of the engine create some braking. Some
engines use a valve override called a Jake brake to greatly increase pumping losses.
Pumping brakes can dump energy as heat, or can be regenerative brakes that
recharge a pressure reservoir called a hydraulic accumulator.
3. Electromagnetic brakes are likewise often used where an electric motor is
already part of the machinery. For example, many hybrid gasoline/electric vehicles
use the electric motor as a generator to charge electric batteries and also as a
regenerative brake. Some diesel/electric railroad locomotives use the electric
motors to generate electricity which is then sent to a resistor bank and dumped as
heat. Some vehicles, such as some transit buses, do not already have an electric
motor but use a secondary retarder brake that is effectively a generator with an
internal short-circuit. Related types of such a brake are eddy current brakes, and
electromechanical brakes (which actually are magnetically driven friction brakes,

but nowadays are often just called electromagnetic brakes as well).

Electromagnetic brakes slow an object through electromagnetic induction, which
creates resistance and in turn either heat or electricity. Friction brakes apply
pressure on two separate objects to slow the vehicle in a controlled manner.
Characteristics:Brakes are often described according to several characteristics including:
1. Peak force The peak force is the maximum decelerating effect that can be
obtained. The peak force is often greater than the traction limit of the tires,
in which case the brake can cause a wheel skid.
2. Continuous power dissipation Brakes typically get hot in use, and fail
when the temperature gets too high. The greatest amount of power (energy
per unit time) that can be dissipated through the brake without failure is the
continuous power dissipation. Continuous power dissipation often depends
on e.g., the temperature and speed of ambient cooling air.
3. Fade As a brake heats, it may become less effective, called brake fade.
Some designs are inherently prone to fade, while other designs are relatively
immune. Further, use considerations, such as cooling, often have a big effect
on fade.
4. Smoothness A brake that is grabby, pulses, has chatter, or otherwise exerts
varying brake force may lead to skids. For example, railroad wheels have
little traction, and friction brakes without an antiskid mechanism often lead
to skids, which increases maintenance costs and leads to a thump thump
feeling for riders inside.
5. Power Brakes are often described as powerful when a small human
application force leads to a braking force that is higher than typical for other
brakes in the same class. This notion of powerful does not relate to
continuous power dissipation, and may be confusing in that a brake may be
powerful and brake strongly with a gentle brake application, yet have
lower (worse) peak force than a less powerful brake.
6. Pedal feel Brake pedal feel encompasses subjective perception of brake
power output as a function of pedal travel. Pedal travel is influenced by the
fluid displacement of the brake and other factors.

7. Drag Brakes have varied amount of drag in the off-brake condition

depending on design of the system to accommodate total system compliance
and deformation that exists under braking with ability to retract friction
material from the rubbing surface in the off-brake condition.
8. Durability Friction brakes have wear surfaces that must be renewed
periodically. Wear surfaces include the brake shoes or pads, and also the
brake disc or drum. There may be trade-offs, for example a wear surface that
generates high peak force may also wear quickly.
9. Weight Brakes are often added weight in that they serve no other
function. Further, brakes are often mounted on wheels, and unsprung weight
can significantly hurt traction in some circumstances. Weight may mean
the brake itself, or may include additional support structure.
10.Noise Brakes usually create some minor noise when applied, but often
create squeal or grinding noises that are quite loud.

Brake boost

Most modern vehicles use a vacuum assisted brake system that greatly increases
the force applied to the vehicles brakes by
its operator. This additional force is supplied
by the manifold vacuum generated by air
flow being obstructed by the throttle on a
running engine. This force is greatly
reduced when the engine is running at fully
open throttle, as the difference between
ambient air pressure and manifold (absolute)
air pressure is reduced, and therefore
available vacuum is diminished. However, brakes are rarely applied at full throttle;
the driver takes the right foot off the gas pedal and moves it to the brake pedal unless left-foot braking is used. Because of low vacuum at high RPM, reports of
unintended acceleration are often accompanied by complaints of failed or
weakened brakes, as the high-revving engine, having an open throttle, is unable to
provide enough vacuum to power the brake booster. This problem is exacerbated in
vehicles equipped with automatic transmissions as the vehicle will automatically
downshift upon application of the brakes, thereby increasing the torque delivered
to the driven-wheels in contact with the road surface.

Although ideally a brake would convert all the kinetic energy into heat, in practice
a significant amount may be converted into acoustic energy instead, contributing to
noise pollution. For road vehicles, the noise produced varies significantly with tire
construction, road surface, and the magnitude of the deceleration. Noise can be
caused by different things. These are signs that there may be issues with brakes
wearing out over time.

A significant amount of energy is always lost while braking, even with
regenerative braking which is not perfectly efficient. Therefore, a good metric of
efficient energy use while driving is to note how much one is braking. If the
majority of deceleration is from unavoidable friction instead of braking, one is
squeezing out most of the service from the vehicle. Minimizing brake use is one of
the fuel economy-maximizing behaviours. While energy is always lost during a
brake event, a secondary factor that influences efficiency is off-brake drag, or
drag that occurs when the brake is not intentionally actuated. After a braking event,
hydraulic pressure drops in the system, allowing the brake caliper pistons to retract.
However, this retraction must accommodate all compliance in the system (under
pressure) as well as thermal distortion of components like the brake disc or the
brake system will drag until the contact with the disc, for example, knocks the pads
and pistons back from the rubbing surface. During this time, there can be

significant brake drag. This brake drag can lead to significant parasitic power loss,
thus impact fuel economy and overall vehicle performance.