Influence of Load and Elastic Properties on the Rolling and Sliding Friction of Lubricated Compliant Contacts

Lubricated “soft” contacts, where one or both contacting solids have a low elastic modulus, are present in many practical engineering and biological applications including windscreen wipers, wet tyres, elastomeric seals, contact lenses and the tongue/palate system. In such contacts, the prevailing lubrication mode is “isoviscous EHL” (elastohydrodynamic lubrication). Unlike in steel–steel contacts, rolling friction can be considerable and this originates in part from the viscoelastic properties of the compliant surfaces. In this paper the influence on friction of both applied load and the elastic properties of the solids is studied using a mini traction machine. In this machine, the rolling and sliding friction can be separately determined. The viscoelastic properties of the polymers employed are measured using a dynamic mechanical analysis apparatus. The measured friction is compared to theoretical models for soft EHL and the viscoelastic energy losses arising from the contact deformation. Consideration of the frequency dependence of the substrate viscoelasticity enables reasonably accurate predictions of the rolling friction coefficient, especially within the mixed and boundary lubrication regimes.