News – What`s happening in energy research

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Energy efficiency and more

The pressure on the automotive industry to lower consumption in vehicles is increasing dramatically. Firstly, the cost of fuel in the last ten years alone has increased by more than 40 %. Secondly, the European Union has successively tightened the emission targets for new vehicles – combined with transfer payments if the targets are not achieved. The manufacturers are responding to the challenges and have a diverse range of parameters that they can adjust: they are reducing the vehicle weight by optimally constructing the body (tailored blanks) and using lighter materials, and they are utilising technical systems, for example for recovering braking energy. A promising area is the drive technology, whereby depending on the application area, optimised combustion engines are competing with hybrid technologies. In accordance with the state of development of battery and hydrogen technology, electric drives will therefore also increasingly become a competitive force. The efficiency gains achieved by diamond-like carbon coatings in the drive train benefit all drive concepts. If the friction reduces, the service life of the components increases and reduces the energy and lubricant consumption. But these are not the only reasons why DLC coatings are being increasingly used in high-tech products. For example, they are also effective in protecting against corrosion and improving the emergency running properties.

The knowledge gained from the research project will ultimately make it possible to optimise a diverse range of machines that transfer forces, for example pumps, hydraulic systems, turning centres and other industrial equipment. For example, wheel bearings have already been developed in which the friction has been reduced by about half in comparison with conventional bearings. The basis has also been created for innovative gas-lubricated sliding ring seals. As cost-effective components, they are intended for use in, for example, vehicles for recovering energy from exhaust gases. Because of this potential and because there are still many issues concerned with the practical implementation that have yet to be clarified, the project participants want to continue the investigations and expand the spectrum with further partners.

The different DLC coatings also open up the way for new technological solutions for other application areas beyond energy research. For example, their chemical resistance and biological compatibility also make them ideal for medical products such as prosthetic limbs, heart valves and orthodontic materials. Their optical properties are also interesting, since they display extremely low light absorption in the infrared and red part of the light spectrum. As a protective layer, they could protect exposed optical components from extreme environmental conditions while simultaneously providing an anti-reflective coating. Many of the new ideas have already been realised. Many more should soon find their way out of the laboratories and into practice – expectations are accordingly high.


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Project management
BMW Group

Project partner
Fraunhofer IFAM

Project partner
Fraunhofer IWS

Project partner
ZF Friedrichshafen AG