The science of friction

The science of friction and its surprising effect on our life

The study of friction, wear and lubrication is known as Tribology. You have all experience all three things. Remember the last time you tried to move heavy object across the floor, and you could feel something is resisting you? That would be friction. Friction is the force that opposes motion.

Wear is loss or transfer of material. It’s reason you have to replace your favorite shoes, because eventually the soles disappear. Lubricants are used to reduce friction and wear. They loosen up those stubborn rusted bolts that just otherwise will not budge.

But tribology is also defined as the science of interacting surfaces in relative motion. So, interacting surfaces in relative motion: there are lot of those in the world. As you are sitting right now, are you wiggling your foot at all or may be shifting around in your seat? Tribology is happening.

Even the smallest shift in your seat involves two surfaces moving relative to each other. Your tribological interaction for the shift will be different than the person next to you. This is because the clothes you are wearing change the friction between you and the seat. If you are wearing silk, it’s easier to squirm around in the seat than if you are wearing wool. That’s because the friction is lower for silk.

If you are moving your ankle at all, did it make a popping sound? you have that, right? you get up, you move around, and some point cracks or pops. That sound can come from the fluid that lubricates your joints just moving around. You are essentially releasing gas bubbles in that fluid.

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