From factories to telescopes in space – how Tribology impacts our everyday lives

Birchwood-based National Centre of Tribology to work with the Henry Royce Institute in collaboration for the advancement of tribology and advanced materials engineering

National Centre for Tribology
Tribology is the science and engineering of interacting surfaces in relative motion. Picture by Paul Chadwick


Many people have never heard of tribology – let alone understand what it is. Yet tribology research helps make our everyday lives run much more smoothly.

Tribology is the science and engineering of interacting surfaces in relative motion and it feeds in to everything from industrial machinery and process to operations in space. For example, tribology research was essential in the operation of the Hubble Telescope.

And here in Liverpool city region, we have a centre of excellence right on our doorstep. The National Centre of Tribology (NCT) in Birchwood, near Warrington, is 50 years old this year – and its work is as relevant as ever.

Technical consultancy

The NCT is operated by ESR Technology, a company that provides independent and specialist technical consultancy, products and services to sectors including aerospace, vacuum, transport, rail, oil and gas, nuclear, renewable energy and manufacturing.

Now it has signed a deal with the Henry Royce Institute to work in collaboration for the advancement of tribology and advanced materials engineering.

The Henry Royce Institute is the UK national institute for advanced materials research and innovation. It works collaboratively with industry and academia to accelerate the innovation of materials systems, in order to create economic and societal benefit.

With its hub at The University of Manchester, and more than £330m invested in capability across its nine Partner institutions, the Royce is making a step change to research capability in the UK.

National Centre of Tribology
The National Centre of Tribology is based at Birchwood, near Warrington. Picture by Paul Chadwick


New collaboration

Steve Gill, Technical director at ESR Technology, said: “Most people outside of engineering or science has never heard of Tribology and yet it benefits us all in our daily lives making machinery operate more efficiently on land, at sea and in space. 

“We are very proud of this new collaboration with the Royce Institute which will provide exciting new areas of Tribology investigation into the future.

Allan Matthews, Professor of Surface Engineering and Tribology at The University of Manchester and director of the BP International Centre for Advanced Materials, added: “NCT was in the vanguard of the industrial implementation of Tribology and has remained as a key provider of consultancy and advice on best practice in this vitally-important industrial technology area.

“There is an excellent fit between the NCT’s activities and the research being pursued within the Royce Universities. I anticipate that the links between the NCT and the Royce will continue to strengthen and this will bring important benefits to the organisations and the country.”

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