As it turns out, many care about friction, but maybe not in the classroom. Christopher Robledo, an applied physics and engineering undergraduate major, had the opportunity to explore friction this summer.
Through a Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI), Robledo spent 10 weeks at Argonne National Laboratory in DuPage County, Illinois. The SULI program provides STEM research experiences in the Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories.
While Robledo was there, he mainly researched the mechanisms of tribology, the study of lubricants, friction and wear on materials.
What do you learn in the classroom?
“We conduct experiments in the classroom, but you really don’t see the how those theories are applied in the real world,” Robledo said.
At Argonne National Laboratory, Robledo got to see firsthand how theories he learned at Missouri State University are applied.
“For some of our in-class examples, we’re told to ignore friction to work out simple force problems,” Robledo said. “And this is for good reason because real world problems can be very difficult.”
Friction is not easy to measure. To determine the coefficient of friction, there is a long, complicated process. Rather than focus on that, instead, they work on friction-related problems.
So why did he learn about it at Argonne?
Just because friction isn’t something that is focused on in the classroom doesn’t lower its importance. During Robledo’s time at Argonne, he looked for ways to increase fuel efficiency and reduce friction and wear on materials.
Less friction and wear means longer lasting products. Better fuel efficiency means using less oil. Robledo spent the summer looking for solutions to make your life easier.
Dr. Robert Mayanovic, distinguished professor of physics, is his adviser.
Congratulations on your summer internship, Christopher!