(a greaseless way to achieve lubrication)

Lubrication remains central to machine performance, but it's only part of the procedure

Lubrication is central to machine performance, but it's only part of the story. More and more, the bigger picture of machine health has been going by the label "tribology" [trigh BAH loh gee] which is based on the Greek word for "rubbing.", "grinding", or "wearing away", etc.

For a long time, the term "well-oiled machines" has served as metaphors for whatever is going right in the world. It can refer to a basketball team, a computer program, even a government agency or the government as a whole (if such is possible). If its parts work well together, if it hums rather than squeals, it's like a well-oiled machine.

Despite the continued use and understanding of the statement, its literal basis is undergoing a big revision.

Tribology is a multidisciplinary science dealing with friction, wear, and lubrication of interacting surfaces in relative motion (as in bearings or gears).

Tribology finds applications in all industrial sectors including the aerospace, automotive, construction, biomedical, textile, optical, mining, petrochemical, machinery and tools, paper, transport, power generation, microelectronics, military, metallurgy, agriculture and food industries. It is a so-called "enabling technology" that makes it possible to develop new products and processes.

Getting to know more about tribology

  • Tribology is the science and technology of friction, lubrication, and wear, derived from the Greek tribo, "I rub" or "pertaining to friction" by rubbing and in Latin as trivi, perfect tense of terere, "to rub". Formally defined, it is the science and technology of interacting surfaces in relative motion and all practices related thereto.
  • The study of tribology is perhaps most commonly applied to the design of steel bearings; however, it extends into other areas including computer machines; such as, computer hard disks.
  • The term became more widely used following a British study in 1966 (The Jost Report) in which huge sums of money were reported to have been lost annually in the UK as a result of machine friction and wear.
  • Several national centers for tribology were created in the UK as a result.
  • Since then the term has spread into the international engineering field and a number of specialists now claim to be tribologists.
  • There is even a "Society for Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers" or STLE in the USA. Note the term 'fricare' (Latin) meaning 'to rub' from which derives the word 'friction.'
  • Tribology combines issues of lubrication, friction, and wear into a complex framework for designing, maintaining, and trouble-shooting the whole machine world.
  • Tribology is already providing data that could be used to produce transmission fluids that give automobile drivers better fuel economy and a smoother ride.
  • The most visionary tribology advocates and practitioners tend to view their field as the cure for much of what ails industry and even entire economies.
  • Tribology has evolved into a bona fide field of research and technology since 1966, when a group of industrialists in England coined the term with assistance from an editor of the Oxford English Dictionary.
  • The Oxford English Dictionary defines tribology as, "The branch of science and technology concerned with interacting surfaces in relative motion and with associated matters (as friction, wear, lubrication, and the design of bearings). " In 1968, H.P. Jost, in the February 8, 1968, issue of the New Scientist states, "After consultation with the English Dictionary Department of the Oxford University Press, we chose the term 'tribology'."
  • Many tribologists devote themselves to uncovering the fundamental chemical and physical dramas that underlie good and bad lubrication, friction, and wear.
  • They are relying on new tools like friction-force microscopes, that can examine surfaces down to the molecular level, now known as nanotribology.
  • Transmissions are just one place where tribology makes a difference in the automotive industry.
  • Other items on the agenda include controlling brake noise and wear, reducing internal friction in engines, and increasing the productivity, part quality, and energy efficiency of production machinery.
  • The "tribology tribe" points proudly to its crucial role in the thirty-billion dollar-a-year data-storage industry.
  • When it comes to surfaces in motion, this is an especially harrowing arena; yet, it's through tribological know-how that makers of hard-disk drives have been able to squeeze more and more data into less and less space.
  • The head that reads and writes information to and from a hard disk flies about 50 to 100 nanometers above the disk surface. That's about one-thousandth the width of a human hair.
  • Meanwhile, the disk typically spins beneath the head at about ten to twenty meters per second.
  • Woody Monroy, head of corporate communications for Seagate Technology, which makes disk drives, says that in terms of speed and clearance, it's the equivalent of an F-16 jet fighter plane flying one-sixty second of an inch [less than one millimeter] above the ground, counting blades of grass as it goes, at Mach 813 (or 813 times the speed of sound).
  • There are many reasons computers go down, but one of the most dreaded is when the head assembly literally crashes into the spinning disk's surface, tearing up and destroying precious data.
  • It's a tribological triumph that, despite all the hazards, vulnerabilities, and abuse by users, most storage systems operate fine most of the time because of proper coatings.
  • The first protective layer is at most twenty nanometers thick. One leading-edge tribo-tactic is to fiddle with the molecular structure of the thin lubrication layer on top of the disk (nanotribology?).
  • Tribologists have plenty of challenges to keep them busy, but it's all part of making disk drives and economies run smoothly.
—"Better Ways to Grease Industry's Wheels," by Ivan Amato;
Fortune, September 28, 1998.

Pointing to a page about tribology The list of tribology words.

Pointing to a page about tribology Information about nanotribology.