This work presents for the first time through-thickness velocity profiles obtained in an EHL contact by photobleached imaging. The velocity profile was inferred by following the evolution of the shape of a photobleached plug formed through the thickness of the fluorescently doped lubricant, oligomer polybutene (PB), in the contact when shear was applied. The proposed methodology was validated by successfully obtaining the expected linear profile with PB experiencing Couette flow. The methodology was then applied to PB in an EHL contact. The variation of the profiles within the contact area was also investigated. The velocity profile of PB in an EHL contact severely deviates from the common linear assumption and exhibits inhomogeneous shear: three regions of varying shear rate have been observed. The phenomenon is shown to be neither due to thermal nor diffusion effects. PB also shows significant slip at the glass-liquid interface. The amount of slip varies with position in the contact. Possible causes, such as pressure-induced viscosity enhancement, as well as the significance of the findings and the benefits of the technique are discussed. The linear velocity profile in an EHL contact is usually assumed for both the film thickness and friction predictions. The profile has, however, never been measured experimentally until now. This work enables the validation of conventional assumptions and the study of flow heterogeneity of lubricants in a contact. This facilitates an improved understanding of the rheology of confined lubricant and hence more accurate predictions of tribological properties.
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