Nanotech in Formula One – Is It Legal?

A bit of digging around in the F1 technical regulations (thanks to Chris Walker at Diamond Hard Surfaces for originally drawing our attention to this) only found the following prohibition on using carbon nanotubes incorporated within carbon fibres, although given the difficulty of making an accurate distinction between nanotubes, nanofibres and carbon fibre.  It would be interesting to know which definition the is FIA using.

Carbon fibres manufactured from polyacrylonitrile (PAN) precursor which have :

a tensile modulus < 550GPa ;
a density < 1.92 g/cm3 ;
unidirectional or planar reinforcement within their pre-impregnated form, not including three dimensional weaves or stitched fabrics (but fibre reinforcement using Z-pinning technology is permitted) ;
no carbon nanotubes incorporated within the fibre or its matrix ;
a permitted matrix, not including a carbon matrix

However, the 2014 regulations bring some new potential prohibitions, tightening up on the use of nanotubes and nanofibres:

Composite Materials – These are materials where a matrix material is reinforced by either a continuous or discontinuous phase. The matrix can be metallic, ceramic, polymeric or glass based. The reinforcement can be present as long fibres (fibre length greater than 10mm) or short fibres, whiskers and particles (discontinuous reinforcement). Nanoscale reinforced materials are to be considered as composites. (a reinforcement is considered to be nanoscale if any dimension of the reinforcement is less than 100nm.)

In terms of nanotechnologies in Formula 1 it is a minor prohibition. As far as we know, plenty of other applications of nanotechnology is used widely in Formula One. Typical examples include;

McLarens KERS system which was using A123‘s nano phosphate lithium ion batteries as a result of their combination of weight and charge/discharge capacity,
Nanoparticles such as  CuO, ZnO and ZrO2 being used in lubricants to reduce friction and wear,
Carbon nano fibres used in brakes and
Nano structured paints and coatings for aerodynamic drag reduction and thermal management.

In the meantime we would be interested to know what has caused  the FIA to turn their attention back to nano fibre composites, and in the meantime there are plenty of Montmorillonite clays that will do a similar job for weight reduction.