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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/P024475/1
Title: In-situ profilometry for transient testing of automotive materials
Principal Investigator: Walker, Dr JC
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Faculty of Engineering & the Environment
Organisation: University of Southampton
Scheme: First Grant - Revised 2009
Starts: 03 April 2017 Ends: 02 April 2018 Value (£): 100,634
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Eng. Dynamics & Tribology Instrumentation Eng. & Dev.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Transport Systems and Vehicles
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
09 Feb 2017 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 9 and 10 February 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Start-stop technology is now widely available on mass-produced automotive vehicles. The engine is able to automatically stop when power is not required (at traffic lights, for example) and quickly start up again when the driver needs to move again. This is a useful technology that saves fuel and reduces exhaust emissions. However there are potential problems with the technology as vehicles get older. The engine needs to be running to generate the oil films that protect surfaces from wearing out. When the engine is stopped and then started again, the amount of friction and wear increases compared to when it is continuously running. This could be a problem as vehicles get older as they may wear out earlier than anticipated, causing environmental emissions and being expensive to replace. There is currently no test standard to compare how the surfaces of automotive materials behave when they are repeatedly stopped and started as little scientific work has been done in this area.

In this project we will build a sensor that will measure the extent to which surfaces are being damaged when they are stopped and started many times and compare it to how they behave when they run continuously. This is challenging as the surfaces are often covered in oil and difficult to measure, meaning people usually have to wait until the end of the test to measure them. They then have to perform many tests to try and find out the overall behaviour. This proves expensive and impractical, such that a continuous test is usually preferable.

We propose to develop a sensor that automatically measures how much wear was being generated in a single test, which will make it easier to compare how different materials in the engine behave under transient (start-stop) conditions.

To do this, we will build a profilometer based on a Hall effect sensor. This sensor uses a magnet to detect changes in height. We will use 3D printing to construct a flexure that integrates a very sharp diamond tip and the Hall effect probe into one assembly and then attach it to a 3-axis motor controller. This will allow us to scan surfaces quickly when they have stopped and measure how fast start-stop operation is wearing them out. It is challenging to measure oily surfaces, so we would develop new technology that will clean the surface using compressed air. If successful, this will allow us to measure the durability of existing materials that are subject to environmentally friendly start-stop operation. The test could then be used to look for new materials and coatings to ensure they would last the life-cycle of the vehicle and not become prematurely degraded, causing more emissions or engine repair costs. Ultimately, the project could be key to the way that future materials are chosen for our vehicles because the methodology simulates real engine driving conditions and would form part of automotive material testing standards.

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