This paper examines the fundamental mechanisms of synovial fluid lubrication in artificial joints. Film thickness measurements were made for bovine serum solutions in a model test device. In contact imaging was also carried out to aid interpretation of these results. The results indicated that two types of film are formed; a boundary layer of adsorbed protein molecules, which are augmented by a high-viscosity fluid film generated by hydrodynamic effects. The high-viscosity film is due to inlet aggregation of protein molecules forming a gel which is entrained into the contact preferentially at low speeds. As the speed increases this gel appears to shear thin, giving much lower lubricant film thickness. Results suggest that protein-containing fluids do not obey classical Newtonian EHL models.
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