June 04, 2008

History Channel program to feature friction center

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A television program showcasing fascinating engineering, science and technology will feature faculty members and laboratories at Southern Illinois University Carbondale in an upcoming episode.

“Modern Marvels,” an hour-long mainstay of the History Channel, spent a day on campus this spring at the Center for Advanced Friction Studies, a part of the College of Engineering at SIUC. The crew taped interviews with researchers for a show titled “Super Hot,” which looks at extreme temperatures and how researchers create and study them.

The show will air at 7 p.m. Central Time on Monday, June 9, and 11 p.m. Tuesday, June 10.

Peter Filip, director of the friction studies center, said friction consumes one-third of all energy created by humans and is a natural topic for a program examining super hot environments.

“Friction heats things up and the program wanted to look at examples from our labs of this happening,” Filip said. “We did a number of simple demonstrations for them that showed how relevant friction is in our lives.”

Filip and others demonstrated the center’s dynamometer, which simulates the stresses and friction airplane brakes experience during landings. They also demonstrated a special high-speed infrared camera that captures the fleeting increase in heat when researchers simply drop a piece of wood onto others. The center purchased the camera last year with funds it received from industry sources, Filip said.

Most of the six to seven minutes of SIUC footage will involve airplane and auto brake friction demonstrations, Filip said.

“We work in here in areas of research that are of interest to industry,” he said, adding that such businesses contributed more than $5 million to the center last year. “This program will allow the public to see our University and the College of Engineering, and that’s great today when we need to attract more engineering students. We are lucky to have faculty here who doing great work, and this program will help show that.”

The show also will feature “pyroman,” a life-sized mannequin exposed to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Viewers also will get a look inside Underwriters Laboratories, where researchers test household appliances and turn them into lethal objects. The show also visits with geologists studying lava flows and fusion researchers who are trying to create unlimited energy sources.

This isn’t the first time Modern Marvels has tapped SIUC researchers for their expertise. A previous program on metals featured interviews with faculty from the metalsmithing program and chemistry department