Tribology for Greener Combustion Engines: Scuffing in Marine Engines and a Lubricating Boric Acid Fuel Additive

  • Datum:
  • Plats: Polhemsalen, Ångströmlaboratoriet, Lägerhyddsvägen 1, Uppsala
  • Doktorand: Olander, Petra
  • Om avhandlingen
  • Arrangör: Tillämpad materialvetenskap
  • Kontaktperson: Olander, Petra
  • Disputation


This thesis aims at increased knowledge in two fields of tribological research; both related to making currently used combustion engines greener. The first field regards the possibilities of using a boric acid fuel additive to increase fuel efficiency. The second field is about the severe wear phenomenon scuffing, which can become problematic when cargo ships are operated on low-sulphur fuel to reduce sulphuric emissions.

Tribological tests were developed and performed to simulate the applications. Advanced surface analysis was performed to understand changes occurring on the outermost surface of sliding components, which affect friction and wear. Samples from engines were studied to verify the relation between the lab tests and the applications.

In the case of boric acid, the coefficient of friction was below 0.02 for large parts of the tests, but varied with test parameters. The corresponding reduction in friction was up to 78% compared with tests without the additive. As an attempt to assess if the substantial fuel savings found in field tests with passenger cars (6%) can be explained by friction reduction in boundary and mixed lubricated parts of the piston assembly, assumptions were presented that would lead to fuel savings close to these 6%. Boric acid was detected on surfaces after the tests, and the tribofilm appearance depended on test parameters. The tribofilms were shown to be affected by storage time and test temperature; a finding that is vital for future studies.

In the case of scuffing, mechanisms were studied and accumulation of wear debris had a significant role on scuffing initiation in the lab scale scuffing tests. Regarding the possibility to test materials scuffing resistance, there was a large scatter in the results, and thereby difficult to draw conclusions. Two new piston ring materials were identified to perform somewhat better than the currently used.

In conclusion, findings that could facilitate immediate improvement of fuel efficiency of today’s combustion engine vehicles as well as findings that strengthen available hypotheses on scuffing mechanisms are presented. The latter offers improved understanding of scuffing and thereby give possibilities to counteract the higher risk associated with operation on cleaner fuel.