Nikasil is a trademarked electrodeposited lipophilic nickel matrix silicon carbide coating for engine components, mainly piston engine cylinder liners. It was introduced by Mahle GmbH in 1967, initially developed to allow rotary engine apex seals (NSU Ro80 and C111) to work directly against the aluminum housing. This coating allowed aluminum cylinders and pistons to work directly against each other with low wear and friction. Unlike other methods, including cast iron cylinder liners, Nikasil allowed very large cylinder bores with tight tolerances and thus allowed existing engine designs to be expanded easily, the aluminium cylinders also gave a much better heat conductivity than cast iron liners, which is an important factor for a high output engine. The coating was further developed by US Chrome Corporation in the USA in the early 1990s (under the trade name of "Nicom"), as a replacement for hard-chrome plated cylinder bores for Mecury Marine Racing, Kohler Engines, and as a repair replacement for factory-chromed snowmobiles, dirt bikes, ATVs, watercraft and automotive V8 liners/bores.

Porsche started using this on the 1970 917 race car, and later on the 1973 911 RS. Porsche also used it on production cars, but for a short time switched to Alusil due to cost savings for their base 911. Nikasil cylinders were always used for the 911 Turbo and RS models. Nikasil coated aluminum cylinders allowed Porsche to build air-cooled engines that had the highest specific output of any engine of their time. Nikasil is still used in today's 911s with great success.

Nikasil was very popular in the 1990s. It was used by companies such as BMW, Ferrari and Jaguar in their new engine families. However, the sulfur found in much of the world's low quality gasoline caused some Nikasil cylinders to break down over time [1], causing costly engine failures.

Nikasil or similar coatings under other trademarks are also still widely used in racing engines, including those used in Formula One and ChampCar. Suzuki currently uses a race-proven nickel phosphorus-silicon-carbide proprietary coating trademarked SCEM (Suzuki Composite Electro-chemical Material) to maximize cylinder size and improve heat dissipation, e.g., on the engine of the Suzuki TL1000S and Suzuki DL650 V-Strom and Hayabusa motorcycles [1].

Engines using Nikasil:

  • Chevrolet LT5 engine, designed by Lotus and used exclusively in the Corvette ZR-1
  • Chevrolet Vega 2.3l, and 2.0l Cosworth fours
  • Citroën Visa twin
  • Citroën GS birotor wankel engine made by Comotor
  • BMW M52 I6, except exports to North America
  • BMW M52TU I6, same as M52 except with VVT on both camshafts
  • BMW M60 V8
  • Ferrari F50 V12
  • Ford RS200
  • Jaguar AJ-V8, 1997 - 2000 (XK series VIN range 001036-042775, XJ V8 series VIN 812256-878717) [2]
  • Lotus Esprit Turbo 2.2
  • Maserati Biturbo 2.0 V6 Engines
  • NSU Ro80
  • Porsche 912 engine ( engine in 917 car, not to be confused with the Porsche 912 car )
  • Porsche 911 1973+ (excluding some 1975-1978 911S)
  • Ford Puma

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