A laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) technique has been used to measure fluid film thickness in a compliant, sliding contact under low-load/low-pressure conditions. The soft contact between an elastomer hemisphere and a glass disc is lubricated by a liquid containing fluorescent dye. The contact is then illuminated with 532 nm laser light through the glass disc, and viewed with a fluorescence microscope. From the intensity of emitted radiation, film thickness maps of the contact are determined. Previous calibration procedures have used a separate calibration piece and test specimen with possible errors due to differences in reflectivity between the calibration and test specimens. In the work reported in this paper a new calibration process is employed using the actual test sample, thereby avoiding such errors.
Results are reported for a sliding contact between PDMS and glass, lubricated with glycerol and water solutions under fully flooded and starved conditions. It was found that, for glycerol, the measured film thickness is somewhat lower than numerical predictions for both lubrication conditions. It is suggested that a combination of thermal effects and the hygroscopic nature of glycerol may cause the lubricant viscosity to drop resulting in thinner films than those predicted for fully flooded contacts. Starvation occurs above a critical entrainment speed and results in considerably thinner films than predicted by fully flooded I-EHL theory. A numerical study has been carried out to determine the effect of the observed starvation on film thickness. Predicted, starved film thickness values agree well with those obtained experimentally.
Keywords: Film thickness, Compliant contact, Fluorescence, Starvation