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Title: Study of film formation in EHD contacts using a novel method based on electrical capacitance
Author: Furtuna, Marian Dumitru
Awarding Body: Brunel University
Current Institution: Brunel University
Date of Award: 2011
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The elastohydrodynamic lubrication regime (EHD) is found in many machine elements, such as rolling element bearings, gears, cam/tappet, where a combination of hydrodynamic effect, elastic deformation of the surfaces and an increase of the lubricant’s viscosity with pressure create a continuous lubricant film which is capable of supporting pressures of the order of tens of thousands of atmospheres. One of the most important features of these films is their thickness, as this determines whether the bounding surfaces are completely separated, thus avoiding premature wear and failure of the contact. Consequently for many years scientists were interested in finding methods for measuring the lubricant film thickness in elastohydrodynamic conditions. One of the most versatile and widely used techniques for measuring lubricant film thickness in EHD contacts is the optical interferometry method. Apart from numerous advantages, this method has the limitation in the fact that one of the contacting surfaces must be transparent, usually glass or sapphire, thus it does not replicate real conditions found in machine elements contacts. On the other hand, the other group of methods used for studying the behaviour of elastohydrodynamic films includes a variety of electrical methods. Historically, these appeared before the optical methods, but gradually lost importance with the success of the later. Most capacitive, resistive, inductance methods developed so far use specially designed sensors for monitoring the lubricant film thickness. In the case of electrical techniques, both elements of the contact are metallic, which means that these can be used for measuring film thickness in real machine elements. One of the main disadvantages of electrical methods though, is the difficulty with which the calibration of various electrical quantities, against lubricant film thickness is obtained. This thesis describes the work carried out by the author on the application of a capacitive method for studying lubrication of elastohydrodynamic contacts. The novelty of the method used consists in the calibration of the capacitance of the contact with optical interferometry. This project started from the premises that a thicker Chromium layer will supply the phase change needed to precisely measure the lubricant film thickness by eliminating the fragile silica layer, and it has been shown that an increase in Cr thickness results in a increase in reflection of the glass–Cr interface making the resulting images hard to process. Modifications to the existing experimental rig were carried out in order to apply/collect an electrical signal from both the disc and the ball. Signal collection from the disc was quite straightforward and a graphite brush paired with a copper nut was used, as this is the oldest method of collecting/applying and electrical signal from a rotating element. Collecting an electrical signal from the ball presented quite a challenge as the ball is submerged in oil. A number of brushes was designed, made and tested and the one that provided the most stable results chosen. For calibration purposes a base oil and two additives were chosen, the additives were chosen in such a way that the improvement made to the lubrication process to be very different from one additive to the other. The chosen additives were a Viscosity Index Improver [VII] and an Organic Friction Modifier [OFM]. The VII is used by many researchers in order to obtain multigrade lubricants using the same base oil by varying its percentage in the mix. The OFM is used to provide protection between the two contacting bodies when EHD film fails and EHD lubrication is replaced by mixed lubrication by forming a boundary layer on the contacting surfaces. Optical measurements were carried out on the base oil and the two resulting lubricants from the additive mixes using the Ultra Thin Film Interferometry [UTFI] method. The measurements were used as a benchmark against which the capacitive measurements were calibrated. Tests were conducted in a number of controlled conditions for speed, temperature, load and sliding conditions. Results showed that the highest influence on the lubrication process was given by the speed, an increase in speed results in an increase in optically measured film thickness and a decrease in electrically measured film thickness. Phenomenon explained by a large amount of lubricant pushed into the contact. Another parameter that influenced the results quite significantly was temperature, a rise in temperature supplies a decrease in optically measured film thickness and an increase in capacitive measured film thickness which was explained by lubricant viscosity dropping with a rise in temperature. Three different sliding conditions were employed and a small drop in optically measured film thickness followed by a small rise in electrically measured film thickness was recorded due to a local increase in contact temperature when sliding was employed. The capacitive method developed in this project is precise enough to accurately measure lubricant film thickness down to 100nm; a model for thicknesses lower that 100nm was proposed Results from the optical and capacitive methods were compared and a good correlation was found, indicating that the developed capacitive method can be used as a tool for measuring metal on metal contacts without further calibration.
Supervisor: Glovnea, R. P. Sponsor: EPSRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Elastohydrodynamic contact ; Tribology ; Lubrication ; Optical interferometry ; Ultra thin film interferometry (UTFI)