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Paving the way to digitize lubrication

We stand on the brink of the fourth industrial revolution, with emerging technology breakthroughs in fields like AI and the Internet of things – but little in the field of lubrication. At least until now.

Lubrication is employed to control friction and wear in the contacts formed by interacting surfaces in machine components, like gears and bearings, to prolong machine service life and reliability. This is an age-old, but growing issue, as we strive towards ever more reliable, efficient and sustainable solutions.

Our world is progressively going electric, with electricity from sources like wind and solar powering more and more of the machines that make our society work. This brings new technological challenges but also opportunities as these machines contain sensors and electronics that allow them to interact and exchange data. Tribotronics brings active control to lubricated contacts by manipulating both mechanical components and the physical and chemical behavior of fluids and materials. In other words: tribotronic technology transforms lubrication from passive to active and strengthens its connection to the Internet of things.

This enables new functionality of the machinery and a further reduction in the overall power consumption and environmental emissions, as well as improving its service life. And that’s very good news as we move towards a more sustainable future.

The world’s first professor in Tribotronics

In June of 2018, Ian Sherrington from the University of Central Lancashire, became the world’s first professor in Tribotronics as he was appointed affiliate professor at KTH. The appointment was in recognition of his research achievements in the field of Tribotronics. He will be working part time in KTH’s Department of Machine Design over the next three years.


The multidisciplinary research, led by Professor Sergei Glavatskih, is supported by a number of funding agencies and industry (see During 2018, two new projects were initiated: ‘Reduced friction by ionic technology’ supported by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research and ‘Electrically conductive lubricants based on graphene and ionic liquid technologies’ supported by the Swedish Research Council. ‘Our vision is to develop tribotronic technology to control system’s loss outputs such as friction, wear, vibration. It’s basic research, but with an applied perspective and our aim is always that our findings will benefit society’, says Professor Glavatskih.