$16M for Fluid Power Research


The National Science Foundation will award the Engineering Research Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP) a four-year, $16 million grant to support research and teaching efforts aimed at reducing the size and energy drain of hydraulic systems.

Industry partners will augment NSF funding with cash and in-kind contributions, and the centers seven universities will contribute an additional $3.2 million. The CCEFPs research goals include increasing efficiency in existing fluid applications; expanding fluid power use in transportation to reduce fuel consumption; creating more portable fluid power applications; and making fluid power safe, quiet, clean and easy enough to use so it can be used anywhere.

More than 30 faculty, 300 undergraduate and graduate engineering students, and 57 industry sponsors have been involved in the center since its founding in 2006 through an initial NSF grant. Their work has included four test beds and more than 25 research projects.

Theres efficiency gains to be had in fluid power systems by improving the tribological conditions within the components, Paul Michael, a research chemist at the Milwaukee School of Engineerings Fluid Power Institute, told Lube Report. This can be accomplished by changing the machinery, or changing the fluid.

Milwaukees CCEFP research project has found that fluids can improve energy efficiency in axial piston motors during startup and low-speed operation, and that the motors respond to viscosity effects in the fluid. Weve determined you can have significant gains in efficiency by using an oil that is more effective at lubricating hydraulic systems, he noted.

Michael said other tribologists working in the area include Ashlie Martini at Purdue University. Her research is studying static friction, so we can understand it better and improve starting efficiency of hydraulic components, he noted.

Another tribologist, Scott Bair of Georgia Tech University, specializes in high-pressure rheology, where hes able to study the characteristics of the fluid at extremely high pressure. It turns out if you squeeze the oil hard enough, the viscosity goes really high, Michael related. The project will generate high-pressure property data (compressibility and viscosity) which the researchers believe will be directly useful in comparing the performance of different chemical structures in high-pressure fluid power.

Michael emphasized the CCEFP is excited about the support of its industry partners. In addition to traditional fluid power companies such as Eaton, Parker Hannifin, Bosch Rexroth and Poclain Hydraulics, membership includes oil companies and additive companies such as ExxonMobil, Shell, Afton Chemical and Evonik RohMax.

Really the benefits are to society in terms of reducing energy consumption, and to the fluid power industry in terms of increasing demand for their products, he said.

More information on the CCEFP is available at www.ccefp.org.

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