Are you applying to universities? | SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE Are you applying to universities? | SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE

iCASE PhD Studentship in Tribology: Understanding and Controlling the Effect of Electric Fields on Lubricant and Additive Performance at the Molecular Level

   Department of Mechanical Engineering

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

Click here to search for PhD studentship opportunities
  Prof D Dini  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a research studentship in the field of “Understanding and Controlling the Effect of Electric Fields on Lubricant and Additive Performance at the Molecular Level”, leading to the award of a PhD degree. The studentship will be based in the Shell-Imperial University Technology Centre for Fuels and Lubricants, which is hosted by the Tribology Group in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College London It will be supervised by members of academic staff in the Group including Profs. Daniele Dini and Hugh Spikes. The student will be expected to study at a Shell location for a minimum period of at least 3 months during the studentship and will be offered industrial mentoring throughout the project. At Imperial, the student will be a member of a larger community of Shell-funded researchers in the Tribology Group who are working on lubricant and electric vehicle-related projects. The Tribology Group at Imperial College is a vibrant, world-leading research group with unparalleled experimental and modelling equipment facilities.

Previous studies have found that the application of an electric field across a lubricated rubbing contact can greatly reduce, or in some cases increase, friction and wear. It has been shown that applied fields can influence both lubricant additive adsorption and additive reaction at surfaces, but the details of these processes, their relative importance, and how they influence friction and wear performance are still poorly understood. This topic has recently become very important in the context of electrification of transport, where electric fields are readily available and may be applied deliberately or inadvertently across rubbing contacts. If applied deliberately they may be used to optimise system response of electric vehicles (EVs), but if inadvertent, they may reduce EV component life or efficiency.

In this project you will apply advanced, computer-based molecular simulation methods to explore the influence of applied electric fields on lubricant additive adsorption and friction behaviour. Understanding of the fundamental origins of friction and wear has progressed rapidly in recent years and the field is now moving toward design of active control method for nano- and/or meso-scale friction, including the use of magnetic and electric fields. This is being facilitated by very rapid improvements of computer-based molecular modelling techniques; at Imperial College we have pioneered this with Shell and are now a major player in the field. The current project will build on our density functional theory (DFT) and reactive molecular dynamics (MD with both classical and reactive – ReaxFF – potentials) simulation capabilities to look specifically at the impact of electric fields on the rates of absorption and reaction of lubricant and additive molecules with iron oxide and coated surfaces, the effect that electric fields play in accelerating/inhibiting adsorption/reaction and the consequent friction behaviour. The overall aim is to build a strategy to optimise molecular structure and electric fields to actively control lubricant additive behaviour at surfaces, in particular in the context of EV lubrication. The project comprises one of a pair of studentships to run in parallel; this project will be centred around molecular modelled and will inform, and be informed, by a second project that will apply advanced experimental methods to measure the response of lubricant additives to applied electric fields.

You will be an enthusiastic and self-motivated person who meets the academic requirements for enrolment for the PhD degree at Imperial College London. You should hold or expect to obtain a First-Class Honours or a high 2:1 degree at Master’s level (or equivalent) in Mechanical Engineering, another branch of engineering, Materials, Physics, Chemistry or a related science. We expect you to have an enquiring and rigorous approach to research together with a strong intellect and disciplined work habits. An interest in developing modelling and simulation methods to investigate the effect of electric fields on engineering interfaces across the scales is essential, as are good team-working, observational and communication skills.

To find out more about research at Imperial College London in this area, go to:

For information on how to apply, go to:

For further details of the post contact Prof. Daniele Dini [Email Address Removed] +44 (0)20 75947242. Interested applicants should send an up-to-date curriculum vitae to Prof. Dini. Suitable candidates will be required to complete an electronic application form at Imperial College London in order for their qualifications to be addressed by College Registry.

Closing date: until post filled

Funding Notes

To be eligible for support, applicants must be “UK Residents” as defined by the EPSRC. Please check your suitability at the link below. The studentship is for 3.5 years starting in October 2022 and will provide full coverage of standard tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend of approximately £21,000. Funding is through an Industrial Cooperative Award in Science & Technology (iCASE[1]) funded by the EPSRC and Shell.
PhD saved successfully
View saved PhDs