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Systemic rail head conditioning by alternative conditioning lubricants such as ionic liquids, and application equipment

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Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Vehicle design and manufacturing (VDM)
Transport mode
Rail icon
Transport policies
Environmental/Emissions aspects,
Transport sectors
Passenger transport,
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

The conditioning of rail heads serves for applying a defined coefficient of friction on the surface of the rail head. Effects caused by wear (debris and the modification of the wheel and rail profiles e.g.) and nasty acoustic effects (squeaking e.g.) shall be reduced or prohibited. Moreover a constant traction between the wheel and rail must be provided due to the conditioning. Therefore oils, greases and solid lubricants such as graphite can be applied. Due to environmental reasons mainly conditioning lubricants based on rapeseed oils are in use.


The rail head conditioning serves for applying a defined coefficient of friction on the surface of the rail head. This is important to provide constant traction between the wheel and rail. The disadvantages of the media currently in use for conditioning shall be avoided with a systematic/tribo-systematic approach with regard to the application of the media to the surface and the performance of the lubricant.


Within this project feasible methods for the fast lubrication of the rail head will be studied taking into account the necessary performance of the lubricant within the special fields of application.

The investigation of the potential rail lubricants – after a pre-selection – is based on field tests. Finally, a LCC estimation is carried out.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT)
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)


Within the IONICRAIL project, the following results have been achieved:

  • A systematic approach for the development of conditioning lubricants has been realized.
  • The explorations proofed that a rail head conditioning with ionic liquid lubricant is possible in general: The Coefficient of friction can be adjusted, and the ionic liquids show some good biological characteristics.
  • There was a successful mathematical modeling of the wheel - rail contact for the simulation of specific driving situations.
  • Characterization of friction ( traction ) between wheel and rail thanks to a model of a tribo-contact in laboratory.
  • Test samples of a mobile tribometer for the field with good correlation with laboratory results
  • Assessment of potential fields of use.

Findings of the study are published by a final presentation (short version, German only) which is available online via the Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT):


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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