Pistons: Ceramic Coatings and NASA Research

There are questions circulating about recent research findings, and a report from NASA (click here for full report) on cermaic coatings. How do these findings apply to GoWesty's use of ceramic coatings in some of our rebuilt water-boxer engines?

The answer is that there is no connection whatsoever.

The research and report performed by NASA have to do with ceramic utilized on piston rings and/or cylinder walls. The study relates to the effects of ceramic coatings as it applies to wear. This is a relatively new idea and is the latest attempt to take the piston engine design to the next obvious step in terms of longer life/reduced wear.

GoWesty’s luse of ceramic coatings is limited to the crowns of the pistons, the top most surface. It has nothing to do with wear. The piston ring and cylinder wall materials used in our engines, while the best available, are conventional and non-coated. The implementation of a ceramic coating on the piston crown is to reduce the heat transfer from the combustion chamber/process into the piston. The goal is to reduce piston temperature, thereby decreasing oil and coolant temperatures and the associated loss of energy which is ultimately transferred to the radiator as waste heat. The added benefit is increased piston life due to lower piston temperature and a more efficient engine. Practically all high performance engines since 1990—and just about all engines designed and built in this century—employ some sort of piston coating on the top.

Additionally, if one looks at the sides, or skirts, of our GoWesty pistons, one will see a coating there as well. The purpose of this non-ceramic material is for reduced friction and/or to maintain optimum piston/cylinder clearance.