The DiamondEHLfriction project receives MSCA Seal of Excellence and EUTOPIA financing

date: 20.05.2022

The DiamondEHLfriction project was awarded the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellowships Seal of Excellence and has also acquired EUTOPIA financing. Prof. Dr. Mitjan Kalin is acting as the host supervisor within the project.

Today, it is in worldwide interest to develop more efficient and cleaner industry and transportation to ensure sustainability development. For instance, the EU has set itself a target for energy savings up to 32.5% by 2030. Countering friction losses is essential target to achieve this goal. Namely, a total of 20% of all energy used worldwide is due to frictional losses. It is thus obvious that friction reduction is central to achieve global and EU energy-saving objectives. Until now, EHL friction was mainly reduced directly by reducing lubricant viscosity and in turn, shear losses of the lubricant. However, this conventional approach has reached its limits, as the film thickness cannot be much further reduced to remain in a full-film EHL regime. Namely, insufficient film thickness leads to surface asperity contacts, and so to wear and reduced durability. Therefore, a novel approach is required to reduce EHL friction while not increasing wear. One way to significantly reduce EHL friction is to employ surface coatings, i.e. low surface energy diamond-like carbon (DLC) coatings, which indirectly reduce EHL friction through a solid-liquid molecular slip mechanism and also provide high wear protection.  

Thus, the overarching aim of this project is to understand and describe the friction reduction mechanisms of DLC coatings in elastohydrodynamically lubricated (EHL) regime. Furthermore, this understanding will be used to design and optimize novel EHL contacts. Validating this approach will realize the potential of DLC coatings, and enable remarkably low-friction energy losses, while not adversely affecting wear and, consequently, reducing surface durability.

Aleks Vrček, the principal investigator of the project, was born in 1991 in Novo mesto. After graduating from the Technical Gymnasium in 2010, he enrolled at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in Ljubljana and completed his undergraduate studies (Academic study program) in 2013. In the same year he enrolled in the international program TRIBOS (Erasmus +), funded by the European Union. four different faculties (University of Leeds, England; University of Ljubljana (UL), Slovenia; Technical University of Luleå (LTU), Sweden; and University of Coimbra, Portugal). In 2016, he was hired as a doctoral student at LTU, Sweden. Research work, which was in close cooperation with Volvo Cars and SKF industry, under the mentorship of prof. dr. Pära Marklunda and prof. dr. Roland Larsson entitled Tribology of Rolling-Sliding Contacts under Mixed Lubrication: With focus on a Crankshaft Roller Bearing Application, Vrček successfully completed 2020. The focus of Vrček’s research was mainly on the wear and fatigue damage of the tribological steel contact between the connecting rod shaft and the roller bearing, namely the connection between material, oil and working properties. From 2021 onwards, Vrček is employed as a researcher at the University of Twente (Netherlands) on the topic of Predicting wear and tear life expectancy of rolling contact fatigue during boundary lubrication under the mentorship of prof. dr. Matthijna de Rooija in connection with the TATA Steel.