Optical interferometry has proved to be a valuable experimental tool in the study of elastohydrodynamic lubrication (EHD). It is a technique that gives detailed information on the lubricant film distribution within the contact; however, the sensitivity is limited and it is only recently, with the development of the spacer layer optical technique, that the study of the thin film lubrication regime has been possible. The limitation of the spacer layer technique is that generally only one measurement is taken from the center of the contact. The next logical step in the development of this technique is, therefore, a system that combines the mapping capabilities of the original optical method with the thin film capabilities of the spacer layer approach.
This paper describes the development of a contact mapping technique that uses the spacer layer approach to visualize, and measure, thin lubricant films in concentrated contacts. The development of the technique is described and its application to both static and moving contacts reported. Thin EHD films (down to 10 nm) have been measured and mapped.