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11-04-2019 | Tribology | News | Article

Economical Engines due to Less Friction

Nadine Winkelmann

Over the past few years, researchers at the Fraunhofer IWS and the automotive industry have developed processes for friction-reducing surfaces of engine components. Now, carbon dioxide emissions are to be reduced even further by developments in surface technology.


Using innovative, diamond-like coatings (Diamor) and laser-structured surfaces, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology (IWS) want to significantly reduce CO2 emissions from engines. Using this method, cars, trucks and buses, but also construction machinery and gas engines, should use less fuel and protect the environment. "In every engine, parts such as pistons and cylinders slide against one another. The more frictional heat is generated, the more fuel is consumed and the higher are the CO2 emissions," explains Dr. Volker Weihnacht, who heads the "Prometheus" research project at the Institute in Dresden. The aim is to optimally balance surface and lubricant in order to reduce friction.

Surface and lubricant need to harmonise

"Currently, super hard, diamond-like carbon coatings already exist. We have optimised these further and added various elements to the graphite evaporated by the plasma process," reports Weihnacht. At the same time, scientists are also developing a laser microstructuring process, which gives the respective surfaces a kind of shark skin effect and improves their sliding properties. The interaction of the components is particularly important during development: "There is no ideal lubricant and there is no ideal surface coating and structure. It is more important to bring everything into harmony with each other and that in interaction between the various engine components," explains Weihnacht.

A total of twelve partners from industry and research are involved in the joint research project sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The project was officially launched at the beginning of January 2019 and will run for three years. The aim is to develop prototypes of low-friction engine parts that are to be transferred to industrial series production a few years after the end of the project. "With our developments, we are moving a major step towards lower-consumption combustion engines for a wide variety of applications," says Weihnacht, who can imagine a variety of other applications based on his findings. It is conceivable, for example, that the solutions found could be used not only for rolling bearings but also for plain bearings such as those used in pumps.


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