Friction researchers breakthrough in leaves on the line friction enigma

Friction PG researchers Dr. Mike Watson, Dr. Tom Slatter and Prof. Roger Lewis have made a big step towards understanding the slippery problem of leaves on the line, a source of significant delays on the UK’s rail system every autumn, with a landmark study published in the Royal Society Proceedings.

The teams work investigated the role of tannins from leaves and their interaction with iron in the rails, and found they can form a low friction layer between the steel surfaces of the wheel and rail, something which is not present without the leaf tannins. The work is very significant due to the costs involved in the delays caused by leaves on the line, and the unpredictable nature of the problem, and the story has been picked up by major news outlets e.g. The Guardian.

Read the full research paper here.

Friction: The Tribology Enigma is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, under grant no. EP/R001766/1