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Tribology is the science and engineering of interacting surfaces in relative "motion. It includes the study and application of the principles of "friction, "lubrication and "wear. Tribology is highly interdisciplinary. It draws on many academic fields, including "physics, "chemistry, "materials science, "biology and "engineering. People who work in the field of tribology are referred to as tribologists.

The word tribology derives from the "Greek root τριβ- of the verb τρίβω, tribo, "I rub" in classic Greek, and the suffix "-logy from -λογία, -logia "study of", "knowledge of". "Peter Jost coined the word in 1966,[1] in the eponymous report which highlighted the cost of "friction, "wear and "corrosion to the UK economy.[2]



Tribological experiments suggested by Leonardo da Vinci

Early History[edit]

Despite the relatively recent naming of the field of tribology, quantitative studies of "friction can be traced as far back as 1493, when "Leonardo da Vinci first noted the two fundamental ‘laws’ of "friction.[3] According to da Vinci, frictional resistance was the same for two different objects of the same weight but making contact over different widths and lengths. He also observed that the force needed to overcome friction doubles as weight doubles. However, da Vinci's findings remained unpublished in his notebooks.[3]

The two fundamental ‘laws’ of "friction were first published (in 1699) by "Guillaume Amontons, with whose name they are now usually associated, they state that:[3]

  1. the force of friction acting between two sliding surfaces is proportional to the load pressing the surfaces together
  2. the force of friction is independent of the apparent area of contact between the two surfaces.

Although not universally applicable, these simple statements hold for a surprisingly wide range of systems.[4] These laws were further developed by "Charles-Augustin de Coulomb (in 1785), who noticed that sliding (kinetic) "friction is independent of the sliding velocity.[5]

In 1798, "Charles Hatchett and "Henry Cavendish carried out the first reliable test on frictional "wear. In a study commissioned by the "Privy Council of the UK, they used a simple reciprocating machine to evaluate the "wear rate of "gold coins. They found that coins with grit between them wore at a faster rate compared to self-mated coins.[6] In 1953, John. F Archard developed the "Archard equation which describes sliding wear and is based on the theory of "asperity contact.[7]

Other pioneers of tribology research are Australian physicist "Frank Philip Bowden[8] and British physicist "David Tabor,[9] both of "Cavendish Laboratory. Together they wrote the seminal textbook The Friction and Lubrication of Solids[10] (Part I originally published in 1950 and Part II in 1964). Michael J. Neale was another leader in the field during the mid-to-late 1900's. He specialized in solving problems in machine design by applying his knowledge of tribology. Neale was respected as an educator with a gift for integrating theoretical work with his own practical experience to produce easy-to-understand design guides. The Tribology Handbook,[11] which he first edited in 1973 and updated in 1995, is still used around the world and forms the basis of numerous training courses for engineering designers.

"Duncan Dowson surveyed the history of tribology in his 1997 book History of Tribology (2nd edition).[5] This covers developments from prehistory, through early civilizations ("Mesopotamia, "ancient Egypt) and highlights the key developments up to the end of the twentieth century.

The Jost Report[edit]

The term tribology became widely used following 'The "Jost Report', published in 1966.[1] The report highlighted the huge cost of friction, wear and corrosion to the UK economy (1.1-1.4% of "GDP).[1] As a result, the "UK government established several national to address tribological problems. Since then the term has diffused into the international community, with many specialists now identifying as 'tribologists'.


Despite considerable research since the "Jost Report, the global impact of "friction and "wear on "energy consumption, economic expenditure, and "carbon dioxide emissions are still considerable. In 2017, Kenneth Holmberg and "Ali Erdemir attempted to quantify their impact worldwide.[12] They considered the four main energy consuming sectors: "transportation, "manufacturing, "power generation, and "residential. The following were concluded:[12]


Transportation and manufacturing tribology[edit]

Historically, tribology research concentrated on the design and effective lubrication of machine components, particularly for "bearings. However, the study of tribology extends into most aspects of modern technology and any system where one material slides over another can be affected by complex tribological interactions.[13]

Traditionally, tribology research in the "transportation industry focused on reliability, ensuring the safe, continuous operation of machine components. Nowadays, due to an increased focus on "energy consumption, "efficiency has become increasingly important and thus "lubricants have become progressively more complex and sophisticated in order to improve this.[13] Tribology also plays an important role in "manufacturing. For example, in metal-forming operations, friction increases tool wear and the power required to work a piece. This results in increased costs due to more frequent tool replacement, loss of tolerance as tool dimensions shift, and greater forces required to shape a piece.

The use of lubricants which minimize direct surface contact reduces tool "wear and power requirements.[14] It is also necessary to know the effects of manufacturing, all manufacturing methods leave a unique system fingerprint (i.e. "surface topography) which will influence the tribocontact (e.g. lubricant film formation).

Tribology Research[edit]

Research Fields[edit]

Open system tribology - wheel-rail contact in winter

Tribology research ranges from "macro to "nano scales, in areas as diverse as the movement of continental plates and glaciers to the locomotion of animals and insects.[13] Tribology research is traditionally concentrated on "transportation and "manufacturing sectors, but this has considerably diversified. Tribology research can be loosely divided into the following fields (with some overlap):

Recently, intensive studies of "superlubricity (phenomenon of vanishing friction) have sparked due to increasing demand for energy savings.[16] Furthermore, the development of new materials, such as "graphene and "ionic liquids, allows for fundamentally new approaches to solve tribological problems.[17]

Research Societies[edit]

There are now numerous national and international societies, including: the Society for Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers (STLE) in the USA, the "Institution of Mechanical Engineers' and "Institute of Physics (IMechE Tribology Group, IOP Tribology Group) in the UK, the German Society for Tribology (Gesellschaft für Tribologie), the Malaysian Tribology Society (MYTRIBOS), the Japanese Society of Tribologists (JAST), the Tribology Society of India (TSI), the Chinese Mechanical Engineering Society (Chinese Tribology Institute) and the International Tribology Council (International Tribology Council).

Research Approach[edit]

Tribology research is mostly empirical, which can be explained by the vast number of parameters that influence friction and wear in tribological contacts. Thus, most research fields rely heavily on the use of standardized "tribometers and test procedures as well component-level test rigs.

Fundamental Concepts[edit]


The concept of tribosystems is used to provide a detailed assessment of relevant inputs, outputs and losses to tribological systems. Knowledge of these parameters allows tribologists to devise test procedures for tribological systems.


"Tribofilms are thin films that form on tribologically stressed surfaces. They play an important role in reducing "friction and "wear in tribological systems.

Stribeck Curve[edit]

The "Stribeck Curve shows how friction in "fluid-lubricated contacts is a non-linear function of lubricant "viscosity, entrainment velocity and contact load.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Jost, Peter (1966). "Lubrication (Tribology) - A report on the present position and industry's needs". Department of Education and Science, H. M. Stationary Office, London, UK. 
  2. ^ Mitchell, Luke (November 2012). Ward, Jacob, ed. "The Fiction of Nonfriction". "Popular Science. No. 5. 281 (November 2012): 40. 
  3. ^ a b c Hutchings, Ian M. (2016-08-15). "Leonardo da Vinci׳s studies of friction". Wear. 360 (Supplement C): 51–66. "doi:10.1016/j.wear.2016.04.019. 
  4. ^ Gao, Jianping; Luedtke, W. D.; Gourdon, D.; Ruths, M.; Israelachvili, J. N.; Landman, Uzi (2004-03-01). "Frictional Forces and Amontons' Law:  From the Molecular to the Macroscopic Scale". The Journal of Physical Chemistry B. 108 (11): 3410–3425. "doi:10.1021/jp036362l. "ISSN 1520-6106. 
  5. ^ a b Duncan Dowson, History of Tribology, Second Edition, Professional Engineering Publishing, 1997, "ISBN "1-86058-070-X
  6. ^ Chaston, J. C. (1974-12-01). "Wear resistance of gold alloys for coinage". Gold Bulletin. 7 (4): 108–112. "doi:10.1007/BF03215051. "ISSN 0017-1557. 
  7. ^ Archard, J. F. (1953-08-01). "Contact and Rubbing of Flat Surfaces". Journal of Applied Physics. 24 (8): 981–988. "Bibcode:1953JAP....24..981A. "doi:10.1063/1.1721448. "ISSN 0021-8979. 
  8. ^ Tabor, D. (1969-11-01). "Frank Philip Bowden, 1903-1968". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 15: 1–38. "doi:10.1098/rsbm.1969.0001. "ISSN 0080-4606. 
  9. ^ Field, J. (2008). ""David Tabor. 23 October 1913 -- 26 November 2005". "Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 54: 425–459. "doi:10.1098/rsbm.2007.0031. 
  10. ^ Bowden, Frank Philip; Tabor, David (2001). The Friction and Lubrication of Solids. Oxford Classic Texts in the Physical Sciences. "ISBN "9780198507772. 
  11. ^ Neale, Michael J. (1995). The Tribology Handbook (2nd Edition). Elsevier. "ISBN "9780750611985. 
  12. ^ a b Holmberg, Kenneth; Erdemir, Ali (2017-09-01). "Influence of tribology on global energy consumption, costs and emissions". Friction. 5 (3): 263–284. "doi:10.1007/s40544-017-0183-5. "ISSN 2223-7690.  ""CC-BY icon.svg Material was copied from this source, which is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
  13. ^ a b c Stachowiak, Gwidon W. (2017-09-01). "How tribology has been helping us to advance and to survive". Friction. 5 (3): 233–247. "doi:10.1007/s40544-017-0173-7. "ISSN 2223-7690. 
  14. ^ J. Paulo, Davim (2013). Tribology in Manufacturing Technology. Springer. "ISBN "978-3-642-31683-8. 
  15. ^ Green Tribology | SpringerLink. "doi:10.1007/978-3-642-23681-5. 
  16. ^ Erdemir, Ali; Martin, Jean Michel (2007). Superlubricity. Elsevier. "ISBN "978-0-444-52772-1. 
  17. ^ Dienwiebel, Martin; Verhoeven, Gertjan S.; Pradeep, Namboodiri; Frenken, Joost W. M.; Heimberg, Jennifer A.; Zandbergen, Henny W. (2004-03-24). "Superlubricity of Graphite". Physical Review Letters. 92 (12): 126101. "Bibcode:2004PhRvL..92l6101D. "doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.92.126101. 

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