Tribology is a scientific term that most people haven’t heard of before. In true definition, it is the study of friction, wear and lubrication. Basically, it includes the all the facts and figures about how interacting surfaces react in relative motion in both natural and artificial systems. In recent times, there has been a greater light shed on the subject as it was found that because of an increased level of friction and wear, the wastage of resources is greater than 6% of the annual GDP. Consequently, people are favoring better, more advanced technology that can minimize this loss and improve potential savings.
The problem, however, is more difficult to solve because of the scarcity of engineers that have sufficient knowledge about this subject. For example, an undergrad engineer only receives about an hour in total of information about tribology throughout the extent of their course.
In order to better understand the fundamentals behind tribology, let’s look at what friction and wear means. Friction is basically the force of resistance between two particles that are in contact. Wear is the loss of material that happens as a result of two particle moving against each other. Tribology, in all its essence, is applied to moving surfaces and surfaces that are in contact to minimize the loss of material. Lubrication is, in fact, the task performed by a material (usually a liquid or a gel) to minimize the effects of friction between two particles and to minimize wear. Choosing the right type of lubricant for your respective materials is imperative to ensure proper lubrication. There are numerous factors that determine how effective a lubricant can be against different types of materials. These include the viscosity of the liquid, the reactivity with the surface and the strength of the lubricant along with others.
In the commercial market, Tribology is mainly used to develop products that can be most effective in serving their purpose. For example, seals. Seals include the caps to any bottle, box or even high-tech machinery. The storage capacities of large production plants and basically any other commodity that needs to be effectively stored requires the application of tribology. With the application of tribology in the most efficient way, engineers can prevent leakage of the respective materials.
For bearing materials, on the other hand, tribology works to extend their lifespan. It works by identifying the actors that are critical to the tribo-system and then comes up with solutions to improve the efficiency of the system by reducing the wear due to friction and the lack of use of a lubricant. Furthermore, the application of tribology helps to create the optimal pairings of different materials that perform the least friction and minimize wear. All in all, tribology, when used effectively, can help engineers and product developers come up with the most cost-effective and waste-reducing solutions to problems such as friction and wear. Better design changes can overall improve the performance of the whole machine that is in question and that can have a positive impact on the whole tribo-system.