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The University of Southampton

Research project: Scuffing in piston assembly and liner of fired combustion engines

Currently Active: 

In the drive to meet improved fuel economy and reduced emission standards, engine manufacturers are developing new engine technologies and lubricant manufacture are reducing lubricant viscosity. The consequence is engine loads and operating temperatures are increasing while lubricant films are decreasing in thickness. This combined with the use of new novel materials and coating for ring faces and liners is resulting in scuffing events occurring at the ring liner interface.

Scuffing is defined as surface damage in a dynamic tribological contact caused by the shearing of cold welded metallic junctions when the lubricant separating the surfaces fails. Once scuffing has occurred the contact usually quickly fails as the severity of the damage rapidly escalates in a matter of seconds. Early detection of scuffing is therefore crucial to understand the causes and events leading to scuffing. The fundamental events leading to scuffing will be investigated by examining the evolution of the surface micro-structure using both contact and non-contact 3D surface profilometery, scanning electron microscopy and nano-indentation techniques. In order for the surface micro-structure to be examined at various instances during scuffing, the project aims to develop a sensor package capable of detecting pre-scuffing as well as major scuffing events.

The project is a collaboration between the University of Southampton; Southwest Research Institute an independent not for profit research facility; and Phoenix Tribology Ltd manufacture of tribology test equipment.

Scuffed cast iron surface

Project Aims:

  • Undertake a literature search of scuffing, finalising in a clear definition.
  • Enhance the understanding of the fundamental causes and events leading to scuffing.
  • Develop new and novel bench test capabilities for studying such events that will enable subsequent screening of materials pairs and lubricants.

Related research groups

national Centre for Advanced Tribology at Southampton (nCATS)
Piston Scuffing
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