Extremely hard, diamond-like carbon coatings are used to protect hard disks in computers and ensure that sliding bearings remain smooth. In the future they could help farmers to save fuel while plowing and make it easier to till the ground. Farmers in Germany consume nearly a billion liters of fuel every year to work their land.
Around 50 per cent of the energy used when plowing or harrowing is lost as a result of friction between the plowshare and the soil. To change this, scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM in Freiburg and their partners in the RemBob project are working on DLC-coated plowshares. They have already been able to reduce friction by half. The power required by the tractor has also been reduced, by more than 30 per cent in some tests.
For farmers, the smoothly cutting plowshares mean either a time gain because they can use wider equipment or lower costs for fuel, machinery and maintenance. The tractors can be smaller or can operate in partial load, with longer repair and maintenance intervals. “From the environmental point of view it would be better for the tractors to be smaller,” says physicist and trained fruit farmer Martin Hörner from Fraunhofer IWM. They would not only need less fuel but would also be lighter. Lighter machines mean less soil compaction, and the looser the soil, the less power is needed to work it.
The quality of the soil would also be better. In highly compacted ground there are hardly any worms and other small creatures which help to turn the soil and enrich it with nutrients. Compacted soils are less able to absorb water and dry out more quickly. “In Germany we are relatively advanced as far as protecting soil resources is concerned, but even in this country more soil is lost by compaction and erosion than is created by natural processes,” explains Hörner.
A further advantage of DLC coatings on groundworking equipment is the protection they provide against corrosion and wear. Plowshares have to be hard and sturdy but also resilient, so that they do not break if they hit a rock. High-durability steels are used, but they suffer visibly if they are used for a prolonged length of time in the ground. “A tine on a circular harrow can lose 50 per cent of its mass through wear every season,” states Hörner. But soil, sand and stones wear down conventional coatings within a very short time. This is why plowshares have not been coated up to now. DLC coatings, however, can withstand the extreme stresses and strains.
The problem is that the tough steel on the groundworking equipment deforms too easily and is therefore unsuitable as a substrate for the much more rigid diamond-like coating – it would quickly spall. The project partners are therefore testing plowshares made of different materials, including nitriding steel, glass-fiber-reinforced plastic and tungsten carbide, out in the field. The next project goal is to plow at least 20 kilometers of ground before the coating fails. “If we achieve that, the wear-free plowshare will be within touching distance,” affirms Hörner.
Martin Hörner | EurekAlert!
Physics, photosynthesis and solar cells
01.12.2016 | University of California - Riverside
New process produces hydrogen at much lower temperature
01.12.2016 | Waseda University
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy