Philip Egberts, PhD, PEngBA Sc in Engineering Science, Nanotechnology Option University of Toronto
MA Sc in Materials Science and Engineering with a Specialization in Metallurgy University of Toronto
PhD in Physics with a Specialization in Experimental Condensed Matter McGill University
Postdoctoral Fellow with a Specialization in Nanotribology University of Pennsylvania
Areas of Research
The study of friction and wear at the atomic length scale is the primary focus of my research group. Within this field, we measure friction at the atomic length scale using atomic force microscopy to gain a physical interpretation of friction that is currently unavailable to scientists and engineers. Rather than using empirically derived friction coefficients, the idea is to be able to break down what is responsible for a friction coefficient (eg. surface energy, bonding configurations, mechanical stiffness, etc), allowing for the development of predictive models of friction. Similarly, wear of materials and wear prevention lacks a physical basis to describe the process. We use the same experimental techniques to understand various wear modes and why they occur. Often, we work with international groups performing computer simulations of these processes to gain a more mechanistic interpretation of our experimental results. Computer simulation is often the only technique by which the energies, atomic positions, and other parameters that are changing within the sliding contact can be directly probed.
We are interested in linking the atomic structure of surfaces to mechanical, chemical and electronic properties of materials. We use ultra-high vacuum atomic force microscopy to probe the atomic structure of these materials to understand their functioning. Dynamic process can also be observed using this technique, such that atomic-scale changes in the structure of materials can be examined.
Lubrication of real engineering mechanical systems, such as automobiles, jet engines, and space craft, are extremely important to their sustainability, durability, and service lifetime. We approach the examination of lubricants, low friction or wear resistant coatings, or surface texturing of surfaces to reduce friction from a metallurgical and materials science perspective. Of specific interest is linking our expertise from nanotribology to macroscale tribology, such that we can use the mechanistic and physical understanding of friction and wear gleaned from atomic scale experimentation to understand the more complex friction processes that happen in real mechanical systems. Furthermore, nanotechnology has given lubrication technology great advances, and yet the exact mechanisms by which nanoparticles or two-dimensional lubricants interact with surfaces is currently unknown. We attempt to examine and address these deficiencies in understanding lubrication mechanisms with novel experimental apparatus, simulations, and analysis of the lubricants/worn surfaces.
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