Activities in tribology cover both research and industrial services. Understanding the basic mechanisms of wear and friction is advantageous in a large variety of applications. These include industrial machinery with sliding or rolling components, engines, artificial joints, watches, and wind turbines. As well as the measurement of friction and wear, surface analysis is carried out to determine the chemistry of interactions at the contacting surfaces.
Research in the field of tribology has focused largely on determining the mechanisms of lubrication and investigating the interaction between liquid lubricants and the surface. This involves measurement using a variety of tribometers, which allow wear and friction to be determined under a range of speed, load, and temperature. On some of these techniques, the contact conditions can also be variety to allow differing contact geometries or materials.
The friction and wear measurements are complimented by surface analysis. Wear is measured by optical or contact profilometry and assessed using scanning electron microscopy. The surface chemistry is examined using ToF-SIMS and XPS. These techniques are especially useful when examining the adsorption and reaction of lubricant additives at the surface.
More recently, the focus has moved to high-friction applications such as braking materials and transmission elements. In such cases, it is important to determine not only the friction and wear but also vibrations and noise emissions.
Services are offered to cover a variety of industrial needs. Materials used at sliding or rolling surfaces may be altered to improve durability and energy consumption. Alternatively, new regulations may dictate that presently used materials are no longer acceptable. In both cases, an assessment of the friction and wear behavior of new materials in the laboratory can greatly reduce the number of candidate materials to be used in field tests and therefore, cuts costs. The development of new oils and greases involves the use of new additives, the effectiveness of which can be determined in the laboratory using those materials found in the application.
Sliding or rolling components can unexpectedly fail resulting in costly repairs and down-time. In such cases, an analysis of the cause of failure is recommended to ensure a smooth operation of the affected equipment.