Nordtrib 2016 came to a close last Friday and I returned home inspired and energized for the next stint in my PhD research. This post is an overview of the conference and summarises the outlook on the field for the years to come based on the round table discussions and key notes. For details on the presented research follow the links to the conference website and the respective authors.
Nordtrib is a bi-yearly conference organized by our Scandinavian colleagues. Every 2 years one of the tribology research groups in Denmark, Norway, Sweden or Finland hosts the event. This years organizer was Finland and they chose the quiet and peaceful town of Hämeenlina as the location. With over 200 participants, 99 full paper submissions and about 160 talks this edition was the largest since its inception in 1984. The conference covers the full breadth of the field of tribology. Our group presented two full papers [1,2].
The conference opened on a sad note with the commemoration of the recent passing of Peter Jost the author of the famous Jost report (1966) that launched the field of tribology. Fifty years have past since the Jost report and the conference therefore featured a round table discussion on the future of tribology on the final day.
Professor Margaret Stack had the honour of kicking off the conference with a plenary talk on tribo-corrosion. The talk discussed that the growth of offshore renewable energy makes the field of tribo-corrosion more relevant than ever. New challenges are given by large scale offshore wind parks, tidal turbines and ocean wave energy. Of particular interest is the interaction of (solid) particles like hail with the offshore structure and the resulting accelerated wear due to the corrosive environment. The development of mapping techniques was discussed to understand the mechanism behind the erosion-corrosion.
A glimpse of the future of computational tribology was shown by dr. Anssi Laukkanen. He discussed the current state-of-art in integrated computational materials engineering (ICME). ICME is an integrated multi scale approach which aims to merge characterization, experiments, modelling and simulation in one work flow. The outcome is a computation driven design methodology for material micro structures. In his talk dr. Laukkanen explained this work flow and highlighted a few impressive examples of this paradigm.
Super hard carbon coatings and their surface chemistry was the focus of the talk by dr. Maria Isabel De Barros Bouchet. She gave an in depth talk on the almost super lubrication approaching tribological properties of biodegradable organic additives (like oleic acids) on Nano Crystalline Diamond (NCD) and Diamond Like Carbon (DLC) coatings. For this a combination of analytical and computational tools were used to explain the atomistic origin of the low friction mechanism . The technology that she and her group developed was successfully applied in gasoline engine parts.
In the final plenary talk of the conference professor Patrick de Baets showed us the challenges related to the use and testing of polymer based tribocomponents. Further an in-line measurement system mounted on a two disc machine was showcased. The system used a high speed camera and image matching and stitching to monitor the evolution of the tribofilms in-situ. Finally, modern trends in reinforcements (e.g. natural fibres) and lubricant additives (e.g. nanoparticles) were discussed.
The plenary speakers already gave the future directions in their respective fields. The general outcome of the round table discussion was the following:
- Tribology should focus (again) on mechanisms and fundamental understanding. The current approach of trial and error of for instance comparing a bunch of materials and selecting the best one based on COF or wear rate is counter productive. Nothing is learned from it and each time the tribosystem changes the process starts anew. This was partly attributed to the fact that most tribology research is industry driven and funded.
- Tribochemistry at the molecular level should be given more attention to better understand interaction with and modification of the surface and its relation to tribofilm formation. For instance the chemistry can be designed based on the nature of the running surface.
- Until now wear has been investigated at the micron level because it is easy to measure. However, in a wear cycle typically only mono layers are being removed. Therefore here also a shift to the mechanisms at a smaller scale is needed.
- Surface engineering by means of the various texturing technologies as presented on the conference.
- Computational tools like ICME and molecular dynamics are seen as the means to reach the above goals.
The above recommendations for the future were already reflected in the submitted talks. I have seen many works on DLC coatings and the mechanisms behind the formation of tribolayers and triboinduced modifications to the DLC surface and the relation to its lubricity. Surface texturing and its relation to friction and wear was also a hot topic, particularly using laser interference patterning techniques.
What further interested me was the work by professor Gwidon Stachowiak on the measurement and characterization of 3D surface texture. He tried to answer the age old question: How to relate surface texture to functional properties of the surface? With particular interest for the upcoming texturing techniques. One of the proposed solutions was based on fractal dimensions which can extract anisotropy, roughness and flatness .
Looking back I found it a very interesting conference and it was a great way to get a condensed overview of the field. It gave me inspiration on how to further improve my research. Next to that I had the pleasure to meet a bunch of very nice people. So, I hope to see you all in two years at Nordtrib 2018 in Uppsala!
To conclude this post a question to the reader: What is your opinion on the future direction(s) of the field of tribology? Let us know in the comments below!
 Ernens, D., Rooij de, M. B., Schipper, D. J., Pasaribu, H. R., Riet, E. J. Van, and Haaften, W. M. Van, 2016, “Mechanical Characterization and Single Asperity Scratch Behaviour of Dry Zinc and Manganese Phosphate Coatings.”
 Bazrafshan, M., de Rooij, M. B., Valefi, M., and Schipper, D. J., 2016, “Comparison of Lennard-Jones Interaction and Maugis-Dugdale models of Adhesion for the Adhesive Contact Analysis of a Bisinusoidal Interface.”
 Bouchet, M. I. D. B., Matta, C., Le-Mogne, T., Martin, J. M., Zhang, Q., Goddard, W., Kano, M., Mabuchi, Y., and Ye, J., 2007, “Superlubricity mechanism of diamond-like carbon with glycerol. Coupling of experimental and simulation studies,” Journal of Physics: Conference Series, 89, p. 012003.
 Podsiadlo, P., Wolski, M., and Stachowiak, G. W., 2015, “Fractal Analysis of Surface Topography by the Directional Blanket Covering Method,” Tribology Letters, 59(3), pp. 1–11.