Influence of tribology on global energy consumption, costs and emissions


Calculations of the impact of friction and wear on energy consumption, economic expenditure, and CO2 emissions are presented on a global scale. This impact study covers the four main energy consuming sectors: transportation, manufacturing, power generation, and residential. Previously published four case studies on passenger cars, trucks and buses, paper machines and the mining industry were included in our detailed calculations as reference data in our current analyses. The following can be concluded:

  • In total, ~23% (119 EJ) of the world’s total energy consumption originates from tribological contacts. Of that 20% (103 EJ) is used to overcome friction and 3% (16 EJ) is used to remanufacture worn parts and spare equipment due to wear and wear-related failures.

  • By taking advantage of the new surface, materials, and lubrication technologies for friction reduction and wear protection in vehicles, machinery and other equipment worldwide, energy losses due to friction and wear could potentially be reduced by 40% in the long term (15 years)and by 18% in the short term (8 years). On global scale, these savings would amount to 1.4% of the GDP annually and 8.7% of the total energy consumption in the long term.

  • The largest short term energy savings are envisioned in transportation (25%) and in the power generation (20%) while the potential savings in the manufacturing and residential sectors are estimated to be ~10%. In the longer terms, the savings would be 55%, 40%, 25%, and 20%, respectively.

  • Implementing advanced tribological technologies can also reduce the CO2 emissions globally by as much as 1,460 MtCO2 and result in 450,000 million Euros cost savings in the short term. In the longer term, the reduction can be 3,140 MtCO2 and the cost savings 970,000 million Euros.

Fifty years ago, wear and wear-related failures were a major concern for UK industry and their mitigation was considered to be the major contributor to potential economic savings by as much as 95% in ten years by the development and deployment of new tribological solutions. The corresponding estimated savings are today still of the same orders but the calculated contribution to cost reduction is about 74% by friction reduction and to 26% from better wear protection. Overall, wear appears to be more critical than friction as it may result in catastrophic failures and operational breakdowns that can adversely impact productivity and hence cost.


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This study has been carried out as part of the Finnish joint industrial consortium strategic research action coordinated by DIMECC Ltd within the program on Breakthrough Materials called BSA in the O’DIGS Project. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of Tekes, the Finnish Technology Agency, the participating companies, and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. Additional support was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, Basic Energy Sciences and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, under contract DE-AC02-06CH11357.

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Kenneth HOLMBERG. He is research professor in tribology, condition monitoring and operational reliability at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. He is the author of two books on coating tribology, editor of 16 books and he has given 53 invited plenary/keynote lectures at international conferences. He has published over 200 scientific papers mainly in areas of tribology, surface engineering, lubrication, computational material modelling and simulation, operational reliability, maintenance and diagnostics. He is interim acting president of the International Tribology Council. He is leader of Model based design of tribological coating systems in IEA programme on Advanced Materials for Transportation 2012-2017. He was president of the OECD IRG Wear group 1992-2006 and chairman of the European COST 516&532 TRIBOLOGY joint research actions 1995-2008. He is chief engineer councillor at the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland and a frequently used expert in the European community and European Science Foundation research actions and programmes. He is member of the Board of Directors at the Taiho Kogyo Tribology Research Foundation (Japan), member of the Programme Committee for Materials Research at the Foundation of Strategic Research (Sweden), and a frequently used consultant for industrial contracts and R&D projects. At VTT he is presently coordinating the strategic computational materials modelling and simulation research, VTT Propertune.

Ali ERDEMIR. He is a distinguished fellow and a senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory with international recognition and significant accomplishments in the fields of tribology, materials science, and surface engineering. He received his B.S. degree from Istanbul Technical University in 1977 and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in materials science and engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1982 and 1986, respectively. In recognition of his pioneering research, Dr. Erdemir has received numerous coveted awards and honors, including six R&D 100 Awards, Mayo D. Hersey Award of ASME, two Al Sonntag Awards and an Edmond E. Bisson Award from the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers (STLE). He is the past president of STLE and a fellow of ASME, STLE, AVS, and ASM-International. He has authored/co-authored more than 300 research articles (260 of which are peer-reviewed) and 18 book/handbook chapters, edited three books, presented more than 160 invited/keynote/plenary talks, and holds 19 U.S. patents. His current research is directed toward nano-scale design and large-scale manufacturing of new materials, coatings, and lubricants for a broad range of applications in transportation, manufacturing, and other energy conversion and utilization systems.

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Holmberg, K., Erdemir, A. Influence of tribology on global energy consumption, costs and emissions. Friction 5, 263–284 (2017).

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  • friction
  • wear
  • energy saving
  • emission reduction