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Ice study could stop your car slip-sliding away

Driving in freezing conditions could become safer thanks to research at the University of Edinburgh into how we slip on ice.

Using funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) researchers at Edinburgh have built a device, known as a Tribometer, to measure the friction generated as different materials, such as rubber or metal, slip across a sample of ice. The Tribometer is designed to investigate how factors such as temperature, object weight, material composition and velocity affect friction.

The team then examines the ice sample using a state-of-the-art Low Temperature Scanning Electron Microscope (LTSEM). This detail of observation has never been done before and allows the team to investigate what is happening to the ice at scales from several millimetres to as small as nanometres.

Obvious products that could benefit from the research include car tyres and shoes. The project has already attracted the involvement of both Ford and Jaguar. In addition, the Tribometer could also be used to study the efficiency of ‘gritting’ agents.

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