9 October 2018

University of Sheffield mechanical engineers present research at International Contact Mechanics conference

A team of twenty researchers, involving academics and students from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, travelled to Delft in the Netherlands this September to present research exploring the interaction between rail track and wheel.

The Diamond from outside. There are lots of students walking around.

Presenting at the 11th international Contact Mechanics and Wear of Rail/Wheel Systems Conference (CM2018), which was organised by Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), the theme of the four-day event was ‘Connecting Science and Practice Towards Future Rail-Wheel Interaction’ and saw both oral and poster presentations from the University of Sheffield.


This is a great conference for our team as it is so focused on our core research activity. It is attended by a good mix of academics and industrialists, meaning we can discuss fundamentals right through to field application.

Professor Roger Lewis

Department of Mechanical Engineering


A drive for more speed, increased capacity, improved efficiency and safer railway systems adds increasing demand on the small contact patch between a train’s wheel and the rail track, particularly in terms of bearing capability, reliability and durability.

As railways look for improved predictive and overall performance from train-track systems, the aim of CM2018 was to bring leading global research together, helping to improve understanding of rail-wheel interaction and support the development of innovative engineering, operation and maintenance solutions.

Some of the varied topics covered at the conference included contact mechanics of rail-wheel systems; friction and adhesion at the rail-wheel interface; damage of rails and wheels; vibration and noise related to rail-wheel contact; as well as condition monitoring and diagnostics in relation to rail-wheel contact.

Professor Roger Lewis, Dr David Fletcher and Dr Adam Beagles, academics from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, were all part of the University of Sheffield delegation. They were kept busy with oral and poster presentations, chairing a number of sessions, and also fulfilling roles on the International Committee.

Professor Lewis commented:

“This is a great conference for our team as it is so focused on our core research activity. It is attended by a good mix of academics and industrialists, meaning we can discuss fundamentals right through to field application. Seven papers were presented on work sponsored by RSSB who remain one of our strongest collaborators in this area.”

Of the twenty papers submitted and included in the conference, seven came from PhD students who are working towards their doctorates with the integrated-Tribology CDTAdvanced Metallic Systems CDT and the Leonardo Centre for Tribology.

Will Skipper, PhD student at the integrated-Tribology CDT said:

"I found the conference very informative; it was interesting to see how rail research is being conducted on an international scope."

Shaun Earl, EngD student at the Advanced Metallic Systems CDT said:

"Attending CM2018 really highlighted the relevance of my research and the global interest in it. I met and had fruitful discussions with the biggest authors of squat and stud research.

"These discussions highlighted the complexity of the research arguments that surround the topic and I now have a much bigger contact base, spanning industry and academia from across the world."

Reuben Kempa, PhD student at the Leonardo Centre for Tribology said:

“The conference was an invaluable opportunity to present my research in a professional capacity and to share my research with academics from across the world and form connections; particularly so with colleagues from Japan who have experience in the narrow field of railhead chemical analysis.

"The conference also provided the chance to catch up with researchers associated with LB Foster, as well as other parties involved in my own doctoral project.”

With the next conference taking place in Melbourne, Australia in 2021, keynote presentations and other coverage from the 2018 event can be found here.

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