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Engineering and the Environment
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Professor Robert J K Wood CEng, FIMechE, MICorr, FIMMM, FHEA, MInstPhys

Director of the UK National Centre for Advanced Tribology at Southampton (nCATS), Professor of Surface Engineering and Tribology, Chair of UK Tribology (cross institutional committee from IMechE, IoP, IET, IOM3, RSC)

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Professor Robert J K Wood is Director of the UK National Centre for Advanced Tribology at Southampton (nCATS) within Engineering and the Environment at the University of Southampton.

Professor Robert Wood is Professor of Surface Engineering and Tribology within Engineering Sciences of the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment at the University of Southampton and has 25 years research experience in the field of tribology and surface engineering. He has spent several years at BP Research researching into erosion and corrosion resistant coatings but returned to Southampton in 1993 to re-establish surface engineering/tribology research. His group was awarded a EPSRC S&I award in 2008 (£10M) to create the National Centre for Advanced Tribology at Southampton (nCATS) and was awarded a further £3M for research into Green Tribology under a platform Grant from EPSRC. The Centre has 9 academics, 12 postdoctoral research fellows and 20 research students.

Professor Robert Wood has research interests in rain, cavitation and solid particle erosion, erosion-corrosion interactions and modelling; tribological and multifunctional coating design and performance, biomimetic coatings for anti-fouling; electrochemical control of interfacial friction; particle modelling in pipe bends by swirl dispersion of particles. He has been involved in working on erosion of helicopter blades, nuclear slurry handling systems at Sellafield, reverse thrust actuators on aero engines, polymer coatings for potable water systems as well as offshore choke valves. He has teaching experience in Surface Engineering, Tribological Engineering and Fluid Mechanics at Undergraduate and MSc level.

Tribology at the National Centre for Advanced Tribology:




Recent Events


Research interests

Professor Robert Wood has research interests that span the application of lubrication, wear and friction science to current and next generation critical machine components such as bearings, transmissions, turbines, pumps and oil and gas drills.

Green Tribology

He heads a major research effort into Green Tribology where the management and reduction of wear and friction are obtained from solutions that are more environmentally friendly and relate to sustainable systems such as wind and tidal energy capture. Solutions being explored include surfaces inspired by nature, water based lubricants, sensing of wear for improved control of machines, and texturing surfaces for low drag/friction.

Marine Tribology

Marine-based research includes a tidal turbine project looking at protecting blades from solid and cavitation erosion combined with corrosion, cavitation erosion-corrosion of ships propulsion systems and anti-fouling and drag reduction for marine vessels.

Tribological Coatings

Assessment of coating survival in next generation nuclear plant; impact and erosion resistant coatings for wind turbine blade protection and military applications, wind turbine transmission tribology; suspension spraying of thick thermally sprayed coatings.

Oil and Gas tribology

Modelling abrasion-corrosion of down-hole drilling equipment and drill string friction; simulating the friction encountered in oilfield operations.


Engagement with the newly formed Southampton Centre for Arthroplasty Revision Surgery (SOCARS) hosted by the NHS Southampton University Foundation Trust. Nanowear and nanofretting of biomedical materials, and forensic analysis of failed hip replacements.

Aerospace Tribology

Seconded to Rolls-Royce under a senior KTS scheme to identify what tribology means to Rolls-Royce and to suggest provision of solutions.

Crack propagation in carbon fibre
Crack propagation in carbon fibre
3-D printed auxetic foam as support
3-D printed auxetic foam as support
High strain rate testing capability
High strain rate testing capability
of a wear scar on a Diamond-Like Carbon coating
High resolution surface scan

Research group(s)

national Centre for Advanced Tribology at Southampton (nCATS)

Research project(s)

Tribological behaviour of nano-structured alloys processed by Severe Plastic Deformation

Prolonging the life of machine parts in nuclear applications

Wear modelling of Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) coatings.

Scuffing in piston assembly and liner of fired combustion engines

Scuffing in automotive engines has increased in both frequency and severity which has led industry to undertake development of a new heavy duty (HD) engine test that will assess the scuff resistance of lubricants. This is planned to be part of a scuffing test standard to be introduced in January 2016. This program of work aims to understand the fundamental causes and events leading to piston ring and liner scuffing by developing new and novel bench test capabilities that will contribute to the set of tests developed for the scuffing test standard.

Reduction of downhole friction by electrochemical methods - Dormant

Development of an antifouling system using environmentally acceptable and naturally occuring products - Dormant

Development of automated condition monitoring using AI tools - Dormant

Abrasion-corrosion of downhole drill tool components - Dormant

Erosion-corrosion modelling - Dormant

Health monitoring of new generation aircraft bearings

Natural products as marine antifoulants

Abrasion-corrosion of cast CoCrMo alloy in simulated hip joint environments - Dormant

Antifouling coatings for warships - Dormant

Sensor actuated smart interfaces incorporating bio-hybrid materials (biofilm sensing)

Condition monitoring to predict component wear - Dormant

Assessment of complex electron beam textured rough surfaces

Suspension sprayed surface coatings for specialised applications

Lightweight ceramic nanotubes reinforced polymer composite coatings and nanofibres with improved impact resistance and responsive functions

Simulating the friction encountered in oilfield operations

This is a two year project aiming to design and build a novel friction simulation device at the National Centre for Advanced Tribology. The project will allow us to re-create in the laboratory the conditions that occur during oilfield exploration. This will allow better understanding as to the conditions and effects that arise from friction when exploring for hydro-carbon reservoirs or to reach geothermal energy sources.

Aluminium-air battery: study of three dimensional aluminium anode and air cathode for the development of high energy density battery for micro-UAVs

The project focusses on the electrochemical properties and energy capability of the aluminium – air battery system. This comprises the separate half-cells, including the aluminium anode and its alloys as well as the cathode materials for oxygen reduction and the electrolytes with and without additives. The project propose the construction of a structural three dimensional battery and it is based on a PhD project currently in the final stages.

Green Tribology

Tribology is the study of friction, lubrication and wear. Decreasing friction by any means always leads to welcome reductions in fuel and energy consumption, with a corresponding decrease in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Structured Surfaces for Tribological Applications

Using structured surface rather than smooth surface to decrease friction is at variance with the classical tribology theories. However, it really happened and has been proved by worldwide researchers.

Structured Surfaces to Trap Bubbles and Reduce Drag and Friction

This project uses a novel method to structure a metal surface with dimples from the micro to nano scale, after which it can be chemically modified to make it hydrophobic.

Tribological behaviour of ultrafine-grained alloys formed by severe plastic deformation

Materials with submicron- or nano-scaled grains produced by severe plastic deformation (SPD) offer new structural and functional properties for innovative products in a wide range of applications. The aims of this study are to understand the effect of SPD processing on wear behaviour of materials, to seek a way to use SPD processing to improve the mechanical properties of materials and their wear resistance.

Designing sensors to detect corrosion in hidden places

Designing sensors to detect corrosion in hidden places

Impact and erosion resistant materials

Protective surfaces for impact tolerance

Cavitation erosion-corrosion of ship propeller materials

Cavitation erosion-corrosion phenomenon is inevitable in marine propulsion system and has adverse effects on the life and functioning of the propellers. The intensity of the cavitation wear and the exact location of its occurrence have been found to be difficult to predict.The main aim of this PhD project is to identify cavitation wear-corrosion mechanism of marine materials used in propellers and rudders in order to characterize the materials based on their behaviour to cavitation erosion simulated by a vibratory probe device. Several tests will be conducted, with and without cavitation protection, using both direct and indirect methods of cavitation erosion tests along with incorporation of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) modelling of the experiment.This research is sponsored by the university research groups National Centre of Advanced Tribology at Southampton (nCATS) and Fluid-Structure Interaction (FSI), along with Lloyd’s Register.

Tribocorrosion of cemented tungsten carbide in oil and gas drilling environments


Book Section(s)



Module titleModule codeDisciplineRole
Surface Engineering SESG6017 Engineering Sciences Course leader
Tribological Engineering SESM3026 Mechanical Engineering Lecturer

International Conference on Abrasive Processes (ICAP) 2014 ( )

World Tribology Congress 2013

Wear of Materials 2013

Faraday Discussion 158

UK-China Tribology Conference 2012

Professor Robert J K Wood
Engineering and the Environment University of Southampton Highfield Southampton SO17 1BJ

Room Number: 7/4065

Telephone: (023) 8059 4881

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