Deakin Research

Institute for Frontier Materials



The surfaces team at IFM is involved in developing new surface treatments for metals and polymers, understanding the performance of traditional and advanced lubricants, investigating wear and friction in manufacturing processes and characterising surfaces.

The demands on materials are becoming increasingly rigorous, in many cases though, it is the properties of the material surface that hold the key to improving performance. Surfaces control the friction in a process, the wear of tools and adhesion of one surface to another. Improved understanding of interactions of surfaces can not only improve current products and processes but enable development of new technologies tailored to applications.

The majority of the surfaces research at IFM is applied, for example the development and testing of new, environmentally friendly lubricants to improve sheet metal forming and increase safety in the workplace. In many of these projects we work with technology suppliers and customers to ensure that the new processes and products find their way into the market. Many projects also use advanced characterisation methods to explore the fundamental science behind the performance of a lubricant or surface treatment. In addition to the facilities at IFM, we have an ongoing collaboration with LaTrobe University which provides access to additional advanced characterisation facilities.


  • Surface treatment/Heat treatment - fluidised bed furnaces (novel diffusion treatments, conventional surface treatments)
  • Wire drawing rig - measures friction during metal wire drawing, comparison of lubricant performance
  • Crossed cylinders wear rig - wear of surfaces, performance of lubricants, comparisons of tool coatings
  • Bend Under Tension Test - simulates sheet bending in sheet metal forming, measurements of friction, comparison of lubricants
  • Glow Discharge Optical Emission Spectroscopy (GDOES) - measures elemental profiles through surfaces, quantitative analysis of coatings and surfaces
  • Nanoindentor - measures nanohardness of surfaces, can accurately place indentor to measure (for example) individual grains
  • Atomic Force Microscopy - measures surface topography


  • Optimising Paint Adhesion To Polymers, FTS Australasia Pty. Ltd. (ARC Linkage project)

    Automotive component manufacturers face increasing pressure to use cheap, lightweight materials such as polymers. Adhesion of paint to polymers is crucial to the performance of automotive parts, however raw polymer surfaces are difficult to paint. Using state-of-the-art facilities, this project explores the science underlying a new surface treatment process that shows great potential for improving paint adhesion to polymers. This project will lead to an understanding of how this process modifies surface chemistry and how that impacts on the quality of the polymer/paint interface. This new knowledge will assist manufacturers to implement the process more efficiently for a range of materials.

  • New Lubricants for Sheet Metal Forming, BP (ARC Linkage project)

    There is increasing pressure on manufacturers, including the sheet metal forming industry, to use less toxic lubricants with a number of common additives being banned or being phased out internationally. In the case of automotive manufacturers, this is combined with demand for alternative sheet materials to reduce costs or cater for export markets. Efficient development of new lubricants or replacement additives requires a comprehensive understanding of the interactions between lubricant components and the surface of the sheet metal. This project will explore and model these interactions and how they are affected by the variables in a metal forming process.

  • HARD Technologies project

Deakin University acknowledges the traditional land owners of present campus sites.

27th January 2012