Students contribute to major project

Published: 30 March 2020

Students at Luleå University of Technology participate in and contribute to the project i-TRIBOMAT where the goal is to predict tribological performance of new materials.
– The students' task is a critical part of the project, says Erik Nyberg, PhD student, researcher at i-TRIBOMAT and student supervisor.

Tribology is the science of interacting surfaces in relative motion. The engineering side includes friction, wear, lubrication and maintenance in different scales ranging from micro machines to spacecraft. In today's technology, it is not aways easy to predict total performances and lifetime of individual machines. Research and development activities in this field are still conducting trial and error procedures. 

Increased predictability

This is the aim that researchers at Luleå University of Technology together with nine partner organizations around Europe are working towards with the i-TRIBOMAT project.

– Tribology today relies on trial and error procedures, our goal is to find a smarter way and make it more predictable. To succeed, we need experimental evidences to show how different operating parameters interact with different materials, says Ichiro Minami, project manager at Luleå University of Technology. Doctoral candidate Erik Nyberg is contributing to the project at Luleå University of Technology.

– Today there is no standardized database, something we hope to create with this project. When achieved, it enables us to analyze the data with new eyes, closer to the goal of a standardized methodology for tribology, says Erik Nyberg.

Top-level research

In order to confirm the methods of data collection, a student group in the tribology course has been engaged. The students' tries to trace the method and ensure quality of the data that is entered into the gigantic database according to the procedures by i-TRIBOMAT. The goal is to come up with a test method that gives quantitative results no matter where the test is run – regrdless of location and operator.

– The advantage for the students is that they can link all engineering models they learned during the tribology course to an experimental project, and see clearly what subject is needed to predict performance with different materials in industrial applications, says Erik Nyberg and continues:

– This is top-level research, and students get a chance to learn the latest developments in the subject.

”Learning from something bigger"

Kalle Mäkelä is studying the fourth year on the Master Programme in Sustainable Energy Engineering and became interested in the subject when he realized that a great deal of energy is wasted by unnecessary friction and wear in, for example, engines. He thinks it is exciting to be part of the large i-TRIBOMAT project.

– It feels great to be part of something bigger this way, the task at hand really feels important, says Kalle Mäkelä. The tests performed by the student group consists of a ball of steel rubbing against a flat surface for about two hours with a lubricant. Then the ball and plate are disassembled and cleaned, and then studied in microscope and profilometer. The worn surfaces are measured and the results recorded. After performing repeated tests, the results are analysed and discussed.

– We've had a look at the data, and there are some surprises. The difficult thing is to interpret the data to practical performances, says Kalle Mäkelä.

Project manager at Luleå University of Technology, Ichiro Minami, emphasizes the importance of international collaborations.

– International cooperation is becoming more and more important, I strongly advice students to consider this in their career plans, says Ichiro Minami