Dr. Binbin Liu is taking part in the Senior Fellowship Program offered by TU Dresden. In six months, divided into two blocks, he is working on a research project at the Chair of Rail Vehicle Technology. We asked him about his experiences during his first stay at TUD between January and March 2024.

Dr. Binbin Liu works as a senior researcher at the Politecnico di Milano in Italy, where he obtained his PhD with distinction on the study of rail vehicle dynamics and wheel-rail contact mechanics in 2016. His research project under the fellowship aims to develop a fast approach to estimate the wear distribution over the wheel-rail contact area, which is suitable for integration into the simulation of rail vehicle dynamics. As part of the collaboration, a new calculation method for estimating wheel wear is to be developed. The long-term goal of the project is to develop a fast and reliable wheel wear model for practical applications that will lead to scientific publications and establish industrial cooperation.

Welcome at the "Friedrich List" Faculty of Transport and Traffic Sciences and thank you for your time!

You grew up and studied in China. You then completed your doctorate in Italy and have been working at the university there as a postdoc and assistant professor ever since. What motivated you to apply to the fellowship at TU Dresden?

Indeed, my academic journey has taken me from China to Italy and now also to Germany. My motivation for applying for the senior fellowship at TU Dresden is due to the academic reputation of the university. TU Dresden is renowned for their strong research progress and their excellent academic environment, especially for engineering. So, I was attracted to the aspect collaborating with leading experts and engaging in the cutting-edge research in an active and dynamic environment. That is why I have made this choice.

Which areas do you focus on in your research?

I am mainly working on the dynamics in particular Railway Vehicle Dynamics and also wheel-rail contact mechanics and Train-Track Interactions -  all about Railway Systems. Furthermore I am dealing with the application of semi-active or active technologies for the design, improvement, or optimization of suspension systems of railway vehicles.

As part of the fellowship, what is your research project about and what are the goals of it?

We have a general frame of the research activity we are going to do. The general topic of this project for the fellowship is to develop a numerical tool for the estimation of rail/wheel wear. The challenge is to look at wear, which is not a short-term phenomenon, computationally expensive from the point of view of simulation. Our goal is to develop a fast numerical tool that can predict the actual wear and is also able to integrate it into the multi-stage simulation which would be a very efficient way. Based on this research we hope that railway engineers will be able to use this tool for assessment of damage conditions and optimization of maintenance strategies for the wheel-rail system. So they know when the wheel or rail needs to be repaired or whether other things have to be done to keep the system performance quality on an optimal level. By applying our reasearch we have the opportunity to reduce maintenance costs while improving the safety of the network.

In the past you have received several awards and honours for your research. Which topics have you focused on in your research? Do you know if these results have been applied further in science or in the industry?

My main research activities are about the vehicle dynamics, where we are focusing on the development of tools and methods in railway technologies. My research enables collaboration with software developers, especially for the rail sector. I know that one of our models has been implemented in a commercial software package which is widely used by the public. A further program has already implemented in the lab of our industrial partner. So in general we can say that there are industrial applications for our models and strategies.

What fascinates you about transportation and mobility in general?

Mobility and infrastructure is fascinate me due to the strong impact on our society, economy, and environment. The right mode of transportation has less impact on our environment, which is also a very important characteristic. In addition we know the railway systems are highly complex, as they require the solution of various domain, including integration of different technical disciplines.The problems associated with the system are therefore quite challenging and require innovative solutions in a fairly large field of research.

You grew up in China and have been living in Italy for some time. How do the Chinese transportation systems differ from the European systems?

From my knowledge I can mention some differences. For example the Chinese transportation system is characterized by its high population density. In Europe, the system is sustainable and often runs in densely populated urban areas. Furthermore, the Chinese policy for the development of infrastructure is centralized while in Europe it is somehow decentralized. Therefore, China has a more efficient and quite rapid development of infrastructure projects, which is the reason for probably the most extensive high-speed networks. The maximum running speed of trains in China is up to 350km/h and although there are similar high speed concepts in both Italy and Germany, there are still differences in development mode.

Have you already got to know some colleagues of the faculty? Perhaps also in interdisciplinary fields?

I spent three months in Dresden and I was sharing my office with a German colleague who belongs to the same chair. That was very nice and he helped me a lot during my stay. Furthermore we had various cooperations and discussions. Apart from that I also had the opportunity to talk in and we had some seminars together with other colleagues from the faculty. I also had a meetings with colleagues from different departments in the TU Dresden. The main topics of our discussions were of course limited to my research topics. The aim is to find out whether we have common interests and can establish cooperations for future research.

You are also giving seminars and workshops at the faculty. What are the topics and what can students expect from you?

I will give some workshops for students that are a part of a course about the running gears. I will provide some topics on particular railway vehicle dynamics and train track interactions. Our aim is that the students get practical skills for the simulation and modelling of vehicle systems, rail-wheel contact, and suspension. I hope that through the software demonstration and practical examples, students will be able to create their own models and run simulations for specific types of vehicles and solve practical problems that will help them for their future career.

Did you already had the possibility to explore Dresden or the surrounding area? What stands out to you?

I did not have that much time to discover everything. But I had the opportunity to visit the “Verkehrsmuseum” where modern railway as well as railway history are part of the exhibition which I enjoyed a lot. I also got a first impression of the Altstadt with its historical buildings which were also very impressive. I also enjoyed walking around in the Grand Garden with its beautiful nature. Unfortunately the park railway was closed during the winter season but I am looking forward to visiting it from July until September when I come back to Dresden.

Have you already tried any typically German dishes or drinks? Did you like them?

I often visited the Mensa at TU Dresden together with my colleagues. I do not know if the food offered by Mensa is quite typical for Germany but I liked for example the Schnitzel or the Bratwurst. It is interesting that some dishes, such as the dumplings, are quite similar in shape and taste to those from my home in northern China. And of course the German beer is very famous and I like most of the beers offered here. 

Apart from your professional duties, what are you looking forward to?

As I mentioned earlier, despite my three-month stay in Dresden, I didn't have the opportunity to explore the region. I hope during my second stay in Dresden I will have more time to enjoy the culture and the public life. I heard about many events, like music festivals, in this area which I am very interested in discovering. Furthermore I look forward to meeting more people such as local citizens and new colleagues and students.


We would like to thank Dr. Binbin Liu once again for the interview and wish him all the best for the future.


Interview: Tim Diehl / Dean´s Office


Portrait of Dr. BinBin Liu
© BinBin Liu

Dr. Binbin Liu

Mail: binbin.liu@polimi.it

About Binbin Liu´s Research

Dr. Liu's research focuses mainly on the dynamics of rail vehicle systems and the contact mechanics and active control of rail vehicles. Dr. Liu has so far obtained three projects from international industrial funding agencies and Horizon 2020 projects. He has also been involved in scientific research projects with international universities and companies, such as the University of Salford and the University of Sheffield, UK, the Warsaw University of Technology, Poland, the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain, and Vtech CMCC in the Netherlands. Dr. Liu is also a member of the International Association for Vehicle System Dynamics and Associate editor of the journal Vehicle System Dynamics.