It is well known that friction between lubricated surfaces is a chief source of energy losses in fluid power systems. Now, help is on the way due to research taking place within the Engineering Research Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP). Led by Dr. William King, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are developing low-cost, microstructured surfaces with a significantly reduced coefficient of friction compared to surfaces with a conventional finish. When rough surfaces slide against each other, this causes reduced friction due to hydrodynamic effects caused by the roughness itself. Until now, it was impossible to harness this effect for industrial applications.

“We've combined two new technologies,” explains King. “First, we created a computational design tool that lets us start with application parameters such as machine speed and lubricant type, and then choose the optimal microstructures. Second, we developed a low-cost manufacturing technique to place these microstructures onto machine components.”

Using these techniques, researchers have fabricated various patterns onto large areas of different shapes and materials, including curved surfaces. The new technique has been extended to many metals including stainless steel, cast iron, nickel alloys, and tool steels. The team is now interested in working with companies who may have applications in mind for these research findings. For more information, visit ccefp.org, project 1D.