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Nanotribology Research Center


Britain’s 1966 Jost Report estimated that the phenomenon of friction causes financial losses to the tune of several hundred million British pounds. Since that time, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Machine Industry has reported that appropriately managing friction phenomena would bring economic benefits equivalent to several percentage points of GNP.

For instance, it has been noted that minimizing friction improves fuel efficiency in next-generation automobiles. That requires reducing friction in a wide range of parts, however, including the engine, tires and drive system. Highly refined friction and adhesion control of the material surfaces of machinery will therefore be indispensable. There is also an urgent need to view friction phenomena at the microscopic (nanoscale) level while developing the next-generation device technology. The nanotribological way of thinking—the nanoscale-level perspective of friction—is essential when developing next-generation energy-saving technology.

Many UEC faculty members are researchers in fields closely related to nanotribological research, such as optics and low-temperature physics. To take advantage of this strength, the university launched a nanotribological research station on June 1, 2014, and conducted research on establishing a true research base. Based on those findings, the Nanotribology Research Center was established on March 1, 2017. The center is characterized by a strong joint research system based on collaboration with outside researchers that combines both theory and experimentation.

Backed by this strong global research network, the center focuses on solving energy conservation problems from the new perspective of reducing friction at the nanoscale level. In concrete terms, the center is developing materials (solid and liquid lubricants) that can minimize friction at the nanoscale level, proposing methods to control friction, and building a revolutionary new energy conversion system on this foundation.

Whenever there is sliding contact between two objects, however, friction will occur. Discussions about the universality of friction will require a new framework of science and engineering that goes beyond the existing frameworks of physics, chemistry and biology. The center seeks to establish nanotribology as a solid scientific and research discipline. The center will continue to apply its global network to the task of expanding on area search activities in both basic and applied research.