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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/N025954/1
Principal Investigator: Dini, Professor D
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Afton Chemical Ltd (UK) BP Caterpillar Limited (UK)
Element Six Ford Motor Co Kings College London
Lanzhou University Robert Bosch GmbH Rolls-Royce Plc (UK)
Saarland University Shell SKF Group (International)
Swinburne University of Technology University of Warwick University of Zagreb
Department: Mechanical Engineering
Organisation: Imperial College London
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 June 2016 Ends: 31 December 2021 Value (£): 1,205,326
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Eng. Dynamics & Tribology
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Energy Transport Systems and Vehicles
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
25 Feb 2016 Engineering Fellowship Interview Panel A February 2016 Announced
09 Feb 2016 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 9 and 10 February 2016 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Almost all engineering systems and many biological ones contain components that are loaded and rub against one another, such as gears and bearings in machines and hip and knee joints in humans. This rubbing results both in friction, that wastes energy, and in wear and other forms of surface damage that lead to machine (and human) downtime, and the need for expensive repair and replacement. This whole field of research is called Tribology and is pivotal both in the quest for sustainability, including reducing CO2 emissions, and in improving the quality of our lives.

In Tribology the effects of rubbing, such as frictional dissipation and wear, are perceived as macroscale phenomena and are traditionally studied by macroscale experiments and analysis. However they actually originate at the atomic and molecular scale, where the severe local stresses produced by rubbing cause restructuring of surface layers, while the molecules of lubricant in rubbing contacts interact with and protect surfaces. Thus to understand and so improve tribological systems we need an approach that spans the molecular, meso- and macro-scales. This will yield both information as to the origins of friction and surface damage - and unwanted phenomena are best tackled at their roots - as well as the ability to design macro-scale components such as lubricants, bearings, gears, engines and replacement joints that operate reliably and efficiently for as long as required.

To meet this need, the proposed research will develop and apply advanced techniques to model rubbing contacts at all the necessary scales - atomic/molecular simulations of surfaces and lubricants, meso-scale modelling looking at structural evolution of surfaces due to rubbing, and macro-scale simulations of actual rubbing components such as bearings and engines. These simulations will be validated by experiments that also span the same range of scales, including direct observation of molecules in rubbing contacts. The most critical and innovative stage of this project, however, will be to link all these models together in to a single computer-based package. The result will be a set of modelling programs that can be used in many different ways; for example to explore the origins of tribological phenomena; to optimise lubricant surface and materials design; to predict performance of machines based on a combination of design and underlying atomic/molecular processes.

Such an approach will give us tools both to understand in full tribological phenomena such as friction and wear and to enable effective "virtual testing", where new and novel designs, lubricants and surfaces can be combined and their effectiveness tested prior to recourse to time-consuming and expensive experimental development.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Organisation Website: http://www.imperial.ac.uk