The contribution of grease thickener to lubricant film formation was examined in this paper. Lubricant film thickness and friction were measured for different grease thickener types in a bearing simulation device. The results showed that the greases formed thick (20–80nm), low friction surface layers at low speeds, which were much greater than the corresponding base oil film. These films appeared to be formed by the physical deposition of thickener in the track during overrolling of the grease. This was confirmed by infrared reflection analysis, which showed the deposited films to have increased thickener content. The ability of grease to form renewable physically deposited solid films has significant implications for optimising lubricant formulation for certain applications, e.g. bearings operating at high temperatures and low speeds where a conventional elastohydrodynamic lubricating film would be inadequate.
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