PhD Studentship The Design of Lubricant-Surface Interaction for Reduced Boundary Friction and Wear

Ref:  EngSci-USMC-100

Faculty of Engineering and the Environment

Deadline: Applications will be accepted at any time until the position is filled.

Mechanical losses account for 15% of total energy loss in an IC engine where 45% of these losses result from friction of piston-ring assembly. An increase in mechanical efficiency of 10% could lead to improved fuel consumption of 1.5%. Taking into account the large number of vehicles on road (30 million in the UK in 2010 according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders) and fuel consumption of 12.5 miles/litre, the potential fuel saving would accrue to approximated £647 million/annum, which is substantial to the country’s economy. Therefore, the advantage in improving mechanical efficiency of IC engines and also other machines is self-evident.

Friction and wear are influenced by boundary interactions between opposite roughness features (asperities) of sliding surfaces. Low shear strength adsorbed thin films are formed by boundary active lubricant species to reduce the energy loss in direct surface contacts. The boundary active molecules in lubricants act as the last barrier, preventing direct surface-to-surface interaction. To optimize boundary lubrication, the project proposes a molecular level numerical model with a multi-scale surface characterization approach to predict friction and wear of rough surfaces. The model combines lubricant-surface interaction as a single system, with different concentration of boundary-active molecules. This can lead to a surface-optimized lubricant blend through fundamentals rather than by empirical approach.

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The candidate must be an enthusiastic and self-motivated person who holds or expects to obtain an upper second or first class degree in Mechanical Engineering, Material Science, Physics, Chemistry or a related field. The successful candidate has the option to be based in the national Centre of Advanced Tribology (nCATS) at University of Southampton, UK for ONE year before moving to University of Southampton Malaysia Campus (USMC) or vice versa. Throughout the PhD duration, the candidate will also have the opportunity to collaborate with nCATS’ industrial partners.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr William W.F. Chong, nCATS, University of Southampton, UK (Based in University of Southampton Malaysia Campus, Johor, Malaysia) Email:, Tel: +6075602465.

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