Introduction to Tribology

Everyday Examples of Tribology

In addition to the more traditional applications of tribology, there are many more devices and other products that we use regularly whose functions rely on tribology. They include products and processes that arise in healthcare, sports, nature and more. In some cases we want to maximum the friction (such as on the soles of our shoes) and in others we want to minimize friction (such as on the bottom of a bobsled).

There are many examples of tribology and tribology-enabled function in the world of sports. For example, the bottoms of athletic shoes are fine-tuned to provide just the right amount of resistance to sliding for a given sport. Also, footballs and balls for other sports have to be designed to be grip-able, but not too sticky. There are many examples in sports equipment where tribology can be the difference between winning or not. Common examples in winter sports include snow skis, bobsleds and curling stones.


There are also many natural processes where tribology is relevant. Some of these processes occur on very large length scales. For example, earthquakes occur when friction builds up over time until the earth cannot withstand the force and there is a shift, and erosion due to water or wind is the process of the earth wearing away over time. Other tribological phenomena occur on much smaller scales. For example, the feet of geckos have evolved to enable them to preferentially stick to surfaces (or not) so that they can effectively walk on walls. Also, scales on snakes provide the specialized contact with the ground that they need to move along both quickly and quietly. Nature has found many innovative solutions to tribological challenges.


Lastly, there are many other examples of tribology in fields as varied as music - for example drawing a bow across violin strings to play notes - and cosmetics - where significant resources are invested to make skin or hair products that have the right feel. Pretty much everywhere we turn there is another example of tribology!



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