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Better ski glide with nanoparticles

Published: 15 October 2014

The ski season is upon us and with it the challenge of finding that perfect glide. Mechanical engineer graduate Alfred Wikner took the opportunity to combine utility with personal interest when he in his thesis examined how nanocomposites can be used to create a ski base with a better glide.

– I have skied in seven "Vasalopp", so the curiosity to achieve good glide and what affects this already existed before the work started, says Alfred Wikner who is in the final phase of his thesis at MSc Mechanical Engineering at Luleå University of Technology.

Composites with high wear resistance

The work has been carried out in the university Tribolab where Alfred investigated tribological behavior of new UHMWPE (Ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene) - nanocomposites for use in ski base.

– I came to the conclusion that the use of UHMWPE reinforced with nanoparticles reduces the wear of the material. Another advantage of nanoparticles is that the material becomes more hydrophobic, resulting in better glide. However, to be noted is that I have not tested the materials on snow, but the work has focused on evaluating the basic tribological properties of nanocomposites. Other uses for polymers and composites having high abrasion resistance can also apply to downhill skiing, plain bearings, and orthopedic implants.

More testing is required for commercialization

However, there remains some work before it would be possible to commercialize a new ski base based on nanocomposites.

– The production of nanocomposites is something tribology researchers at the university have been doing for a while. However, it would require more extensive comparisons with today's ski bases and take into account a larger number of parameters. Research in recent years has shown that the structure of the ski base plays a major role in the glide, and that it is possible to get good glide without wax, says Alfred Wikner.

Alfred Wikner's supervisor, Associate Professor Nazanin Emami, says the results have been interesting and she is in favor of further research in the area.

– Alfred Wikner´s results encourage us to proceed with the development of new nanocomposites that are more water-repellent (hydrophobic) and creates less friction in the ski base.