Real time tyre temperature sensors improve racecar performance

Sensor Review

ISSN: 0260-2288

Article publication date: 27 June 2008



(2008), "Real time tyre temperature sensors improve racecar performance", Sensor Review, Vol. 28 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Real time tyre temperature sensors improve racecar performance

Article Type: Mini features From: Sensor Review, Volume 28, Issue 3

A team of researchers at the School of Science and Engineering at University Campus Hamilton (formerly Bell College Glasgow) is using infrared sensors to monitor the temperature of tyres on racing cars in real time around the racing track, enabling set up changes to be made on the car that lead to improved performance on the track.

The research project involves the use of 12 “CS Series” infrared temperature sensors from Micro-Epsilon, three on each wheel of the racing car – on the inside edge, outside edge and centre line. Each sensor is positioned directly above the surface of the tyre, relaying temperature data back to a data logging system for further analyses. One of the attractions of the sensor is its ability to be positioned a significant distance from the tyre, due to its high resolution 10:1 optics. In this case, the sensors are positioned 150 mm from the tyre but still measure over a small (15 mm) diameter surface area (Figure 5). Competing sensors currently on the market measure over a much wider surface area at a distance of 150 mm, which makes tyre temperature measurements very difficult to analyse, particularly if the three measuring spots on the inside edge, outside edge and centre line of the tyre cannot be distinguished from one another in the results data. The CS Series can also be easily integrated into existing racecar bodywork.

Figure 5 A 3 Micro-Epsilon CS series sensors are positioned above each wheel

David Kennedy, Senior Lecturer at Bell College Glasgow and Head of the Research Project commented: “The research is part of the Product Design with Motorsport course here at the college. We’ve been working on racecar chassis set up for some years now, as part of the Formula Student Competition. The sensors will enable us to improve the performance of the development car, by looking at the temperature of the tyres in real time as an indication of how hard they are working. We are using set-piece manoeuvres as well as laps of the circuit to minimise variability due to the driver.”

Monitoring the temperature of tyres is clearly beneficial for race teams, particularly F1 and other Motorsport engineering teams, as it enables the performance of the car to be improved. Traditionally, engineers would measure the temperature of the tyres after the race or test lap is completed, but this means only average rather than real time temperature readings can be analysed.

As Kennedy pointed out: “Micro-Epsilon demonstrated its CS sensor to us on its stand at the Autosport Engineering Show in January this year. We were impressed by the very fast, almost instantaneous feedback of the infrared CS sensor. We’ve used the sensors connected to a Pi Research data acquisition system, on a car that was driven on a local race track. By analysing the results, we were able to make set up changes to the car to improve the performance. For example, we noticed that the temperature of the outside edge of the right hand front tyre was low during a particular manoeuvre. We therefore made a change to the camber in order to make more efficient use of the tyre and therefore improve the total grip available, increasing the cornering speed.”

Micro-Epsilon’s “optris CS” and “optris CSmicro” sensor series combine high quality and high accuracy with a rugged, high-grade stainless steel housing. The technology was designed specifically for OEM customers, who to date may have avoided infrared measurement due to its relative high cost. The “optris CS” is therefore compact, with an M12 thread and a diameter of 14 mm and a length of 87 mm. The sensor also comes with integrated electronics, an LED display and a smart sighting support. The “optris CS” is a rugged device, benefiting from coated silicon optics and so can be used in ambient temperatures of up to 75°C, without cooling.

Further features are: a scalable analogue output of 0-10 or 0-5 V, adjustable signal processing, short circuit and polarity reversal protection, USB programming interface with software and a wide power range of 5-7 or 12-28 V DC.

The more recent addition to the range is the “optris CSmicro”, which is even more compact than the optris CS and measures just 14 mm in diameter ×28 mm in length, with an M12 thread. Again, the sensor is housed in stainless steel but the processing electronics are integrated in the sensor cable itself, which facilitates small sensor dimensions. This enables the sensor to be mounted onto Formula One racing cars and used in other high-performance motorsport applications.

In addition to providing all the features of the “optris CS”, the “optris CSmicro” provides a programmable simultaneous alarm output for fast analysis and switching operations. A very fast response time of 30 ms (CS and CSmicro) demonstrates the level of technical innovation these sensors bring to the infrared temperature sensor market. The sensor can also be used in ambient temperatures of up to 120°C without having to cool the sensing head.

For more information on Micro-Epsilon’s range of infrared temperature sensors for Motorsport applications, please call the Micro-Epsilon UK Sales Department on Tel.: 0151 260 9800 or e-mail:

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