Researchers Use Electricity to Reduce Friction


A research group led by two universities in Japan recently announced a new technology that uses dielectrophoresis – electric power – to effectively collect high-performance lubricants onto mechanical sliding parts, which the group believes can reduce energy losses to friction when using small amounts of lubricant.

An Oct. 31 Tohuku University press release explained that dielectrophoresis refers to the presence of dielectric particles created when they are polarized by an alternating electric field. Surrounding solvents are also polarized, but the degree of polarization varies depending on the substance.

The difference in polarization causes a difference response to an external electric field, resulting in particle movement. For the group’s research, the idea was to collect droplets of functional lubricant dispersed on a sliding surface.

“This technology make it possible to achieve high lubricity and wear resistance even when using a small amount of high-performance lubricant, reduce environmental impact and maintain frictional stability even when lubricant is depleted,” an Oct. 31 Tohuku University press release stated. Professors from Tohuku University and Nagoya University led the research group, which also included an official from South Korea’s Korea Photonics Technology Institute.

The research group said it developed a two-component oil mixture in which high-performance lubricant is mixed with a more basic lubricant to address the problem of lubricant viscosity decreasing excessively at high temperatures. “Two-component mixed oils are developed with the aim of preventing excessive reduction in viscosity by dissolving low-viscosity oil and high-viscosity oil into each other at high temperatures,” the university’s press release said. The research group’s article on the research, titled “Active control of Lubricant Flow Using Dielectrophoresis and its Effect on Friction Reduction” may be viewed on the website of Tribology Online, a specialized journal for tribology.

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