As hard as a diamond

Posted on February 24, 2021 by Lucie Maluck

Always looking for ways of making engines more efficient and more robust, mtu experts from Rolls-Royce have come up with a new solution: They coat the heart of the engine, i.e. the crank drive comprising crank shaft, conrod and pistons, with a special material that's as hard as a diamond.

The crankshaft of an mtu Series 4000 engine rotates on its own axis 1,800 times a minute. And with each revolution the moving components – pistons, pistons rings and cylinder liners among others – rub against each other. These are the points where friction develops, and friction ultimately compromises the overall efficiency of an engine. Now a special coating is to be used to minimize the frictional losses.

Makes engines more efficient and more robust

In a vapor deposition process, the surface of the pistons, piston rings etc. are coated with a carbon material with diamond-like properties. This hardens the components and lowers the frictional co-efficient, which produces two major benefits: The engines become both more efficient and more robust. “Fewer frictional losses lead to lower fuel consumption,” explained Philipp Köser, who leads the development project at Rolls-Royce Power Systems. The other advantage is that because the mtu engines are essentially being made tougher, they can be subjected to higher demands and run with an oil grade of lower viscosity. Use of lower-viscosity oils also helps lower fuel consumption. “Which completes the circle,” explained Köser.  

Higher efficiency most important for stationary gas engines

The project is still in the development stage. However this year, the new technology will first be put to the test on mtu gas engines used in stationary applications. Since these clock up the most operating hours, this is the segment in which customers stand to benefit most from enhanced efficiency. Following that, diesel engines will also receive the coating treatment too. The diamond-hard coating is likewise playing a significant role in research into CO2-neutral engine concepts such as hydrogen-powered engines.  

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