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Edition 9

nCATS Newsletter The national Centre of Advanced Tribology at Southampton (nCATS) is one of the world’s leaders in the study of tribology; the science of lubrication, friction and wear. We investigate and solve challenging tribological problems in fields as varied as renewable energy, functional coatings and bioengineering. Together with our research partners in industry we will give birth to the next generation of technology. Professor Robert Wood, nCATS Director Improving hip replacements | Page 2 Developing innovative anti-fouling systems | Page 5 New at nCATS | Page 6

Improving hip replacements Every year more than a million hip and knee replacement operations are carried out around the world and that is projected to increase to over four million by 2030. However, while they allow people to live a normal life again, there is still room for improvement with the technology. For patients aged between 55 and 64, up to 80 per cent of hip implants will last over 15 years but they tend to fail sooner in younger more active, patients. When they fail, revision surgery is required that is more expensive and complex, needing exceptionally skilled surgeons.

be cheaper to produce in the numbers we will need in years to come, as the population ages?

The next generation of hip replacements are now being tested at the University of Southampton. nCATS has invested £40,000 in upgrading its hip wear simulator – a high tech walking machine that simulates the stresses and strains which everyday movements place on artificial hips. How can engineers design and test better hip Replacement joints in the simulator undergo half a million steps in a week; it takes ten replacements that will last longer and


Neighbourhood NCATS Newsletter News | Edition | Autumn 9 2013 2012

weeks to represent about two and a half years of walking for an ordinary man or woman. “When hip replacements were pioneered in the 1960s by Sir John Charnley, it was hailed as the operation of the century,” explains Senior Research Fellow Russ Alberts. “Todays work focuses on prolonging their lifetime. The use of new materials are leading to a new generation of replacements. We have the facilities at nCATS to help develop new joints and welcome inquiries from companies and funding organisations.”

Probing why artificial hip joints fail PhD student Vanesa Martinez will be using nCATS new state-of-the-art testing facilities in her research into ways of improving artificial hip replacements. Implants using metal on metal bearings are becoming a major global problem. They are increasingly failing five years after surgery after patients experience extreme tissue reactions to material released from the joints. Evidence from England and Wales, and Australia suggests different types of implants using both metals and polymers are also failing. The two main problem areas are the taper joint between the head and the stem components, and the interface between the cement and the stem in the femur. Vanesa will be working with Southampton Orthopaedics: Centre for Arthroplasty and Revision Surgery (SOCARS), a new multidisciplinary research group based in Southampton, formed to study the origins of implant failure. Her PhD will look at how orthopaedic materials used for hip replacements respond to the stresses of motion within the body. She will use the new fretting capability of the nano-mechanical and tribological testing facility to test and compare a range of biomedical materials.

Test out our new kit nCATS has invested £500,000 in state-ofthe-art nano mechanical and tribological testing equipment thanks to a grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). We have bought two Vantage systems from Micro Materials Ltd which offers a range of testing capabilities including microhardness, nano-indentation (both quasi-static and dynamic), nano-impact and fatigue, nanoscratch and wear and nano-fretting. We can now accurately map surfaces and highlight mechanical variation within materials, while the built in optical microscope and nanopositioning stage provide a repositioning accuracy of 2 m for precise investigation of specific surface features. The systems have the ability to undertake a number of such tests in a range of environments. These include temperatures from -20°C up to 750°C in a reduced oxygen environment, in liquid environments and in humid air. nCATS welcomes approaches from researchers and companies who are interested in using our new systems. Contact Tomas Polcar, or Richard Cook,

NCATS Newsletter | Edition 9 2013


Improving seals in the oil and gas industries Laboratory testing at nCATS has helped an international engineering company resolve an issue with one of its products. Electrostatic discharges were damaging the surfaces of some of the dry gas seals used in turbomachinery in the oil and gas industries. John Crane UK Ltd contacted the Research Institute for Industry (RIfI) at the University of Southampton. Dr Terry Harvey at nCATS set up a range of tribological experiments to test out coating and material combinations for the seals, to explore the charging phenomena and suggest solutions to the problem. “The work conducted by RIfI/nCATS for us contributed significantly to the successful understanding of the causes of electrostatic discharge (ESD) in a turbomachinery application,” says Ian Goldswain from John Crane UK Ltd. “It proved to be vital to a major business agreement with a key customer in the oil and gas market.”

Insights from a global manufacturer MEng fourth year automotive theme students got the chance to learn about bearing manufacture during a visit to Daido Industrial Bearings in Somerset. They toured the factory in Ilminster and saw how the Japanese company makes bespoke bearings for the automotive industry. Daido frequently works with nCATS on projects and contracts. Lecturer in Lubrication Science Dr Monica Ratoi organised the visit; students later said they enjoyed the opportunity to see how tribological principles are applied to reduce costs.

Working with industry on innovative coatings Representatives from more than 30 leading manufacturing companies got the chance to catch up with latest research into innovative coatings for industry at the latest meeting of the nCATS ‘Coatings Club’ at the Hilton, Southampton. Tribology researchers at the University of Southampton are investigating alternatives to common industrial coatings containing toxic chemicals such as chrome, which are being outlawed by new European Union legislation. “Last year’s meeting outlined the issues, this time we presented some of our solutions to our colleagues from industry, such as thin carbon-based film,” says Dr Tomas Polcar from nCATS who addressed the delegates. “Developing effective alternatives to improve safety, reduce friction and protect against corrosion


NCATS Newsletter | Edition 9 2013

is very important, especially in the aerospace and automotive industries.” Ian Goldswain from John Crane UK Ltd was at the meeting. “It was a valuable opportunity to forge better links with academia and meet up with other companies to discuss common issues”, he says. The event was organised by nCATS and the Knowledge Transfer Network, part of the UK’s Technology Strategy Board.

Developing innovative anti-fouling systems nCATS is working with antifouling company Haydale to develop new coatings containing carbon nanoparticles for marine and medical applications.

Professor Paul Stoodley and Professor Robert Wood are involved in the two year Knowledge Transfer Partnertship (KTP) with Haydale, part of Innovative Carbon Ltd. David Gibbs has been hired as the successful KTP Associate; he has also enrolled as an MPhil student with the title of his project being “Development of a novel anti-biofouling coating system incorporating plasma-treated carbon nanoparticles”. Martin Williams of Haydale is David’s industrial technical supervisor. Dr Julian Wharton and Dr Simon Dennington of nCATS are also part of the academic supervisory team. A KTP facilitates the transfer of knowledge, technology and skills from an academic institution to a company or organisation. They are currently funded by fifteen Government organisations led by the Technology Strategy Board.

Liam Goodes, Postdoctoral Researcher NCATS Newsletter | Edition 9 2013


Improving lubrication in artificial hips Postgraduate research student Ping Lu is exploring how to improve the lubrication of artificial hip implants as part of her PhD studies. The National Physics Laboratory (NPL) is sponsoring her degree. “Of course, people’s original hips have natural lubrication but replacement joints need extra assistance. I will be looking at how small changes in the metal surface at the micro-scale, perhaps adding tiny grooves, may make a difference”, explains Ping. Her three years of research will include time at NPL in London. Ping, who studied for her first degree in Mechanics at the Beijing Institute of Technology, took a masters in Advanced Mechanical Engineering at Southampton before enrolling for the PhD.

Major EU grant for coatings development Dr Tomas Polcar has been awarded €321,000 as part of a European Union FP7 HardAlt project to continue his work on developing an alternative to hard chrome plating which currently uses toxic materials. It is estimated around 3.1 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) is wasted through the costs of corrosion. Protective coatings such as hard chrome serve to prevent wear and corrosion and save money. The EU aims to eliminate the use of hexavalent chrome because of health concerns by encouraging scientists and engineers to come up with a better alternative Dr Polcar and colleagues in several European countries including Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Greece and Czech Republic, are investigating the development of nickel-phosphorus (Ni-P) composites coatings at the nano-scale as alternatives in electroplating.


NCATS Newsletter | Edition 9 2013

New at nCATS Welcome to Dr Ingrid Ku and Timothy Kamps Ingrid joined nCATS in March 2013 as a two-year postdoctoral research fellow, bringing her skills in mechanical engineering, tribology, CAD and software to design and build a new state of the art oilfield friction simulator device. She is collaborating with a major oil and gas equipment supplier to find ways of increasing the operational efficiency of hydro-carbon extraction. Ingrid has a masters degree in Mechanical Engineering from Imperial College, where she also completed her PhD in micro-electro-mechanical systems friction. Timothy began his PhD on automotive lubricants: “Scuffing in piston assembly and liner of fired combustion engines” in October 2012 after graduating with an incorporated masters degree in Mechanical Engineering from Southampton. The programme, sponsored by Phoenix Tribology Ltd and Southwest Research Institute, Texas brings together a unique blend of materials, mechanical, machine and theoretical experience. He aims to produce a standard test procedure for part of the PC-11 test programme currently being developed in the USA by the American Petroleum Institute. This is a new set of tests for automotive lubricants to cope with tighter emission regulation as well as the behaviour of low viscosity lubricants which reduce friction inside the engine; a key area for low carbon vehicle emissions. Both Timothy and Ingrid will work with Dr John Walker, Dr Terry Harvey and Professor Rob Wood

Expertise from nCATS is always in demand Academics at nCATS, the UK’s leading centre for research into friction, lubrication and wear, are frequently called upon to provide advice and solutions on often challenging engineering problems. Southampton’s tribology researchers were contacted by lawyers representing the new owners of a ship that had suffered serious engine failure shortly after purchase. They were taking the previous owners of the vessel to court in a dispute over its seaworthiness. The source of the problem had been traced to a failed bearing, which was removed from the engine and delivered to the nCATS laboratories along with its connecting rod (bearing housing) and the crankshaft. nCATS Senior Research Fellow Dr Terry Harvey and Dr Brian Mellor, Senior Research Engineer working for the University of Southampton’s Research Institute for Industry (RIfI), performed measurements on the damaged components to ascertain the cause of engine failure. Director of nCATS, Professor Robert Wood, presented their findings as a tribology expert witness at the tribunal hearing in London. The tribological aspects of the bearing, the possible wear modes, debris generated and the subsequent consequences on engine life were critical to the case. He was cross-examined for five hours, the longest of all six expert witnesses at the hearing. After the case went to appeal at the High Court and again the Buyers case was upheld, this landmark case has now led to a change in maritime law relating to the sale of marine vessels.

Putting nCATS on the map Advanced research at nCATS has been highlighted at a prestigious US conference organised by the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers (STLE). Dr Ling Wang and Martin Evans attended the conference in Detroit. Martin who is researching the white structure flaking (WSF) cause of bearing failure in wind turbine gearboxes for his PhD, gave an oral presentation and displayed a poster about his work that won 1st place prize in the poster competition. “The conference attracted around 1,300 delegates and it was a great opportunity to meet a large number of other people active in the WSF research field,” explains Martin. “It was an extremely rewarding process to be able to communicate my research to such a specific audience who have genuine interest in WSF and discuss the critical issues with the world’s major oil, bearing and gearbox manufacturers.” Ling and Martin also spread the word about the wide range of research currently underway in many key areas of tribology at nCATS and they are confident that also this networking and discussion opportunities will result into new collaborations.

Protecting propellers from cavitation Jahnabi Basumatary is investigating some tribological aspects of marine propulsion for her PhD studies at nCATS. Sponsored by Lloyds Register, she is examining how the action of bubbles imploding can damage propellers. Jahnabi will be setting up a test rig using different materials as propeller coatings. Jahnabi studied for a MSc in Advanced Mechanical Engineering Sciences at Southampton before embarking on her PhD which will be supervised by Professor Robert Wood of nCATS and Steve Turnock, Professor of Marine Fluid Dynamics with Dr Reddy at Lloyd’s Register.

Research post for PhD graduate Postgraduate researcher Dr Amir Rmaile has secured a job with Philips after completing his PhD at nCATS. Amir will start working as a research dentist with Philips Research in Eindhoven in September 2013. He has been working with Professor Paul Stoodley on cross disciplinary research on ways to help people clean their teeth more effectively by getting rid of hard-to-remove dental plaque biofilms, which cause tooth decay and gum diseases. As part of the research, he has used a high speed camera to record the series of events that happen when a micro drop of water travelling at up to 60 metres per second hits a simulated biofilm plaque in the space between teeth. He has also explored chemical, mechanical and enzymatic methods to disrupt dental biofilms that could lead to better tooth brushes and improved oral hygiene. NCATS Newsletter | Edition 9 2013


nCATS Newsletter  

National Centre of Advanced Tribology at Southampton Newsletter Edition 9

nCATS Newsletter  

National Centre of Advanced Tribology at Southampton Newsletter Edition 9