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Surface texturing of coated surfaces for demanding nanotribology applications

Project Description

Plasma-assisted CVD and PVD coatings, such as Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) and transition-metal ceramic nitrides (eg. CrN; TiN), provide improved friction control and/or wear resistance in bearing applications involving rolling/sliding. Such coating materials are now routinely used in industry, including on components for automotive, aerospace and biomedical applications.
However, in a Surface Engineering context, many challenges remain in the design of coating/substrate systems for applications in demanding environments, especially where the friction/wear behaviour of the engineered surface at the nanoscale, and changes in friction/wear in response to extreme operational environments, are poorly understood but key to obtaining reliable and robust product performance.

This project aims to develop and explore novel nano-texturing approaches to surface friction and wear optimisation, using combinations of advanced mechanical, optical and ion-beam techniques to introduce precisely controlled surface topographies to a range of candidate metallic, ceramic and polymeric substrates, both with and without CVD/PVD surface coating. The friction and wear of the modified coating/substrate systems will be characterised by advanced tribological and microscopical characterisation methodologies, using a range of operational environments to evaluate the interplay of texture and environment on surface performance.

There are many practical examples of tribological systems involving unlubricated, aqueous, vacuum, irradiated - and other - challenging conditions, where improved and textured coating/substrate systems may have significant impact. Potential applications include nanolithography, MEMS/NEMS, nuclear propulsion, spaceflight and exploration systems, biomedical implants and instruments, to name just a few. This PhD project will have strong integration with the EPSRC Friction : the Tribology Enigma Programme Grant (

Funding Notes

A first, good 2:1 or Masters degree with Merit, in a relevant science or engineering subject such as materials science, mechanical engineering, physics or chemistry. Funding covers home tuition fees and annual maintenance payments of at least the Research Council minimum for eligible UK and EU applicants. EU nationals must have lived in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the programme to be eligible for a full award (fees and stipend).

How good is research at University of Sheffield in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials?
Materials Science and Engineering

FTE Category A staff submitted: 34.80

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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