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Modelling of lubricated contact loading processes

School of Engineering

About the Project

Project description:

Lubricant plays an important role in influencing how friction is manifested during any contact loading process, including, cutting, milling, indentation, impact or drilling. For this reason, coolant during machining has been used for many centuries as it provides an important property of being a heat carrier to take the heat away from the cutting zone where heat is generated during plastic deformation of the workpiece material as it is sheared by the tool.

It has been known by now that even at smaller length scales, such as during diamond machining or nanoscratching by an atomic force microscope, coolants play an important role. It was reported earlier that a water based coolant is particularly favourable to the diamond over an oil based coolant ( Consequently, efforts in this direction have started to gain momentum particularly using computational modelling efforts. ( While many aspects of ductile plasticity of silicon and diamond have now started to become clearer (, these efforts need more attention in light of the recent discoveries. One such discovery has been that the water lubricated diamond surfaces ( rubbing together showed newer regimes of friction. It was reported that while water starvation causes amorphization of the tribological interface, small traces of water are sufficient to preserve crystallinity. More efforts are required to understand how these fundamental discoveries can be translated to scalable computation models and to derive commercial benefits. The project will make use of softwares such as LAMMPS, OVITO and LIGGGHTS to develop scalable computer models of lubricated contact mode processes using the UK’s most powerful supercomputer ARCHER2. The main focus will be to link the simulations with the experiments performed on a state-of-the-art nanotribology instrument tooling industry.

This PhD project aims to continue these global efforts to unravel the unknown science of lubricated contact loading processes. Taking examples of nanoindentation and nanoscratching processes, the work will shed fresh insight on the origins of friction during the contact loading process in presence of a lubricant (gas or fluid) with a particular focus on identifying the ultra-low friction regimes to concatenate these efforts.

Robust modelling techniques combining atomistic and CFD techniques will be developed to predict the influence of coolant during lubricated tribology between two contacting asperities.

Requirements: Applicants must be of outstanding academic merit and should have (or be expected to gain) either a first class or an upper second-class Honours degree (or the international equivalent), or an MSc/MRes with distinction. Enthusiastic and self-motivated candidates from all countries with a background in either Engineering, Materials Science, Physics or Mathematics or a related discipline are encouraged to apply. Candidates should be able to demonstrate that they are highly motivated, have excellent communication skills and undertake challenging tasks using their own initiative.

Funding Notes

We are offering a number of funded PhD scholarships. These studentships are available to UK nationals & EU citizens and overseas applicants. Those in possession of their own funding (e.g. via a non-EU government scholarship) are also welcome to apply for a place of study.


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