Improving gas mileage with tribology

Automakers could reduce inefficiencies in vehicles by 61% within two decades by incorporating current tribological advances in substances such as lubricant additives and surface coatings. (Photo credit: Robin Wulffson)

If you think tribology is the study of Native American culture, guess again. It is the study of reducing friction. Tribologists study “interactive surfaces in relative motion.” Much attention is currently placed on alternative energy sources and improving the efficiency of the internal combustion engine. Applying principles of tribology to the automotive industry could result in tremendous improvements in fuel economy.

The November issue of Popular Science magazine noted that last March, tribologists at Argonne National Laboratory and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland found that automakers could reduce inefficiencies in vehicles by 61% within two decades by incorporating current tribological advances in substances such as lubricant additives and surface coatings. They place an annual price tag on the savings: $700 billion worldwide. However, they make an even more significant point: the vehicles would burn 102 billion fewer gallons of gasoline per year; thus, producing 960 million fewer tons of carbon dioxide. Moreover, tribology can not only save money but also save the planet. Beyond the automotive industry, tribology could produce tremendous cost savings for aviation, shipping, and home appliances. Read more.

Posted November 5, 2012