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Hydrogen Fuelled Internal Combustion Engines – Friction, Wear and Lubrication Challenges in a Hydrogen Environment.

   Department of Engineering

   Monday, July 31, 2023  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project


To help address climate change, improve air quality and meet increasingly stringent government regulations, the automotive industry is increasingly exploring the use of hydrogen as an alternative to conventional fossil fuels. In particular, the direct injection of pure hydrogen in ICE (Internal Combustion Engines) is getting significant traction. Hydrogen combustion has been touted as an alternative to electric vehicles for over a decade, but has struggled, for example, with the complexities of fuel storage and performance limitations. As the former drawback has gradually been addressed, the performance challenges are recently getting increased attention. As hot vaporous water is the byproduct of hydrogen combustion, one of the main challenges is related to the degradation of the lubricant: the unusually high water content in the oil leads to accelerated corrosion of the piston rings, cylinder heads, and combustion chamber.

Project details:

This project proposes an in-depth exploration of the behaviour of reciprocating engine components exposed to a hydrogen environment. The selected PhD student will design and build a test apparatus that will replicate the piston ring – cylinder liner contact, completely enclosed and running in a hydrogen environment. Following the development of the test apparatus, a systematic study will be conducted to investigate the tribological properties (i.e., friction, lubrication, and wear) of various sliding surfaces operating inside the hydrogen environment. In particular, research will be focused on the following topics:

  • The impact of hot vaporous water on oil degradation
  • Ways of controlling the lubricant degradation process
  • Engine component corrosion in a hydrogen environment
  • Cavitation behaviour in a hydrogen environment
  • The effects of laser surface texturing as a potential surface enhancement technique to reduce friction and wear in a hydrogen environment
  • The effects of surface coatings on reducing wear in reciprocating contacts

Ultimately, the aim of the project is to propose new ways of reducing component wear and corrosion, lubricant degradation, and frictional losses in a reciprocating contact functioning in a hydrogen environment. The results of this research can potentially help the automotive industry enhance the performance of hydrogen vehicles, contributing to a longer engine lifespan.

An in-depth analysis of the lubricants’ characteristics and surfaces wear behavior will be performed using a set of characterization techniques available at King’s College London such as white light interferometry, optical microscopy, atomic force microscopy and more. Further, a modelling component can be added at a later stage.


We are particularly interested in students with a strong mechanical engineering background, excellent CAD and MATLAB capabilities, and knowledge of basic tribological concepts. Lab experience is required. Additional knowledge in optical microscopy and LabView is welcomed, but not a requirement.

This project spans multiple disciplines, including mechanical engineering, materials science, and sustainability, and encourages collaboration with both internal and external partners.

Starting date of the PhD is October 2023. The program is fully funded for 3.5 years by an EPSRC studentship (covering Tuition fees, Stipend plus London Allowance, Bench Fees/Research Training & Support Grant). The position is only available to Home Students.

Application Procedure:

To be considered for the position candidates must apply via King’s Apply online application system. Details are available at:

Please indicate your desired supervisor as Dr. Sorin-Cristian Vladescu in your application and all correspondence.

The selection process will involve a pre-selection on documents, if selected this will be followed by an invitation to an interview. If successful at the interview, an offer will be provided in due time.

Funding Notes

Funding is available for 3.5 years and covers tuition fees at the level set for UK students, c. £6,120 p.a. and a tax-free stipend of approximately £19,668 p.a. with possible inflationary increases after the first year. The student is expected to contribute to the delivery of teaching and assessment in the Department of Engineering. The studentship includes the Department’s standard conference travel support, a computer, and consumables.

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