Sikkens Thermal Coating Keeps McLaren F1 Car Cool

AkzoNobel brand Sikkens has revealed details of its high-performance protective coating hidden underneath the McLaren F1 team’s stylish Papaya-coloured car.

Intertherm 50, from the brand’s international product range, is used as an integral part of a sophisticated thermal management system, providing essential heat shielding. The product is applied to critical components surrounding the engine and exhaust to help them withstand temperatures of up to 540°C.

“We heavily rely on the International Intertherm 50 as our general heat-resistant, reflective coating,” said Steve Foster, Principal Composites Engineer at McLaren.

Ian Fletcher, Senior Product Manager at AkzoNobel, said Intertherm 50 is an aluminium pigmented, thin-film silicone coating. “Its silver shade comes from the aluminium. It reflects heat due to the way in which the aluminium pigment aligns with the surface of the coating,” Fletcher said.

“Aluminium has very low emissivity so reflects a large amount of the infrared heat rays that hit it. This reflective property is why you see marathon runners wrapped in foil. The heat they give out is captured inside the blanket, which allows them to regulate their temperature as their body heat drops.”

Fletcher said a single coat of the product is just 25 microns thick – around a third of the width of a human hair. It’s more conventionally used in the oil, gas and power industries to protect steel from corrosion on areas including flare stacks, chimneys, exhausts, vents and pipework.

Intertherm 50 sits alongside an array of technologies designed to keep McLaren’s race cars cool, which includes foam from NASA and heat-resistant composites. There’s also gold foil on the chassis to reflect infra-red rays.

“It’s a massive design effort,” said Foster. “There’s so much performance to be gained from managing the flow structure through the car and protecting it from the heat.”