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Roland Larsson
Roland Larsson, Professor of Machine elements. Photo: Tomas Bergman View original picture , opens in new tab/window

"It's more fun to become an engineer today because our role now is to save the world"

Published: 18 March 2022

Roland Larsson is Professor and Head of subject of Machine elements and one of two scientific leaders of Creaternity.

What are you researching right now?

My basic knowledge is in tribology, but I am diverse in my research. In connection with Creaternity, we work with the lubricants of the future. One percent of all oil, 1.5 cubic meters per second, is used as a lubricant. Replacing the large flow with something else is not easy. There are two ways: replace with something environmentally friendly (for example glycerol that we have worked with for ten years) or to clean the lubricant over and over again. In the latter, we have now started a project together with SKF.
I also work with the ski's tribology – highly topical now during the ski season. We have three PhD students who are focused on this issue in collaboration with the Swedish Olympic Committee (SOK). We believe that our long tribology experience will help to understand the friction better and in the long run enable the world's fastest ski.

How come you started researching your subject?

I took a course in tribology and had Erik Höglund and Ove Isaksson as teachers. I liked their way of teaching and their enthusiasm for the subject. I was offered a thesis project in tribology at Nynäs during the summer before the last year of my education. After graduation, I worked with tribology for a few years before I became a PhD student with Erik Höglund. It was not something I planned, but it was a recession and the job I could get when we moved back to Norrbotten. But I have never regretted it, I have experienced so many exciting things during my 30 years at Luleå University of Technology.

How does your research play a role in Creaternity?

It is above all the research on alternative lubricants that connects to Creaternity, as well as the purification of them where we strive for a circular use. Recently, I have also been interested in design to promote circularity, to design a product that will last "forever" and that can be upgraded and repaired time and time again. Sustainability requires a completely new way of thinking and the best solution will be different as it is not only price and performance that matter.

What is the most fun discovery / result you have made / produced as a researcher?

Wow, that's hard! The job with glycerol-based lubricants is of course fun, but also my work with understanding how surfaces behave when they come in contact with each other has been, and is, inspiring. It is so fascinating that we can not yet predict friction and wear despite the fact that there are two everyday processes that we are exposed to every day.

What do you want to achieve during your research career?

I usually tell the students that it is so much more fun to become an engineer today than before because the engineer's role now is to "save the world". We need to find new solutions to the problems that have often been created by engineers. Now the engineer must find ways to use materials in a sustainable way, to produce sustainable electricity and to only use materials that are renewable, non-toxic and easier and cheaper to produce. Such fun challenges and you always feel that "now we fix this"! As a researcher, I want to feel that we make the world a better place.

What is the most fun / challenging part of being a part of Creaternity?

The most fun is finding solutions to climate problems. That we should be able to continue to live a good life here in the world and now soon in a way that does not harm the planet and its inhabitants. The challenge is to do it fast enough. But on the other hand, it is the spur. We must do our very, very best to ensure that humanity survives and begins to live in harmony with animals and nature here on Earth.

Why do you think Creaternity is important?

It is about creating a shift in how we think about materials and products: we should be able to use, for example, a vacuum cleaner, a vehicle or a paper mill for any length of time. It may need spare parts, it may need to be upgraded and repaired, but then only minor additions of new material are added. Creating such an idea will require collaboration between companies and individuals in a completely different way than before. The business models will be changed so that all parties want (and make money from) that the "stuff" will last forever. To be able to do that, digitisation is important because we have to automate how we keep track of where the gadget is, in what condition it is, who uses it and who should get paid – something that do research on within Creaternity.

Tell us a little about yourself!

I was born and raised in Norrbotten and now live in Gammelstad with my wife with whom I have three grown children. The river, which is close by, has become an important place for recreation, skiing and skating, swimming and boating. I like to exercise and engage in orienteering, ski orienteering and forestry. During the breaks, I like to read, work in the garden, choir practise, travels, and concerts. I also run a company that works with the green lubricants of the future that are intended to replace the oil.


Roland Larsson

Roland Larsson, Professor and Head of Subject

Phone: +46 (0)920 491325
Organisation: Machine Elements, Machine Elements, Department of Engineering Sciences and Mathematics