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Rear (driven) bicycle sprockets. New, left, shows no wear. Right, used, shows obvious wear from being driven clockwise. Kaedetandhjul.jpg
Rear (driven) bicycle sprockets. New, left, shows no wear. Right, used, shows obvious wear from being driven clockwise.

Wear is the damaging, gradual removal or deformation of material at solid surfaces. Causes of wear can be mechanical (e.g., erosion) or chemical (e.g., corrosion). The study of wear and related processes is referred to as tribology.


Wear in machine elements, together with other processes such as fatigue and creep, causes functional surfaces to degrade, eventually leading to material failure or loss of functionality. Thus, wear has large economic relevance as first outlined in the Jost Report. [1] Abrasive wear alone has been estimated to cost 1-4% of the gross national product of industrialized nations. [2]

Wear of metals occurs by plastic displacement of surface and near-surface material and by detachment of particles that form wear debris. The particle size may vary from millimeters to nanometers. [3] This process may occur by contact with other metals, nonmetallic solids, flowing liquids, solid particles or liquid droplets entrained in flowing gasses. [4]

The wear rate is affected by factors such as type of loading (e.g., impact, static, dynamic), type of motion (e.g., sliding, rolling), temperature, and lubrication, in particular by the process of deposition and wearing out of the boundary lubrication layer. [5] Depending on the tribosystem, different wear types and wear mechanisms can be observed.

Wear types and mechanisms

Wear is commonly classified according to so-called wear types,[ citation needed ] which occur in isolation or complex interaction. Common types of wear include:

Other, less common types of wear are impact-, cavitation- and diffusive wear. [6]

Each wear type is caused by one or more wear mechanisms. For example, the primary wear mechanism of adhesive wear is adhesion. Wear mechanisms and/or sub-mechanisms frequently overlap and occur in a synergistic manner, producing a greater rate of wear than the sum of the individual wear mechanisms. [7]

Adhesive wear

SEM micrograph of adhesive wear (transferred materials) on 52100 steel sample sliding against Al alloy. (Yellow arrow indicate sliding direction) Adhesive wear on 52100 steel sample.jpg
SEM micrograph of adhesive wear (transferred materials) on 52100 steel sample sliding against Al alloy. (Yellow arrow indicate sliding direction)

Adhesive wear can be found between surfaces during frictional contact and generally refers to unwanted displacement and attachment of wear debris and material compounds from one surface to another.[ citation needed ] Two adhesive wear types can be distinguished:[ citation needed ]

  1. Adhesive wear is caused by relative motion, "direct contact" and plastic deformation which create wear debris and material transfer from one surface to another.
  2. Cohesive adhesive forces, holds two surfaces together even though they are separated by a measurable distance, with or without any actual transfer of material.

Generally, adhesive wear occurs when two bodies slide over or are pressed into each other, which promote material transfer. This can be described as plastic deformation of very small fragments within the surface layers.[ citation needed ] The asperities or microscopic high points (surface roughness) found on each surface affect the severity of how fragments of oxides are pulled off and added to the other surface, partly due to strong adhesive forces between atoms, [8] but also due to accumulation of energy in the plastic zone between the asperities during relative motion.

The type of mechanism and the amplitude of surface attraction varies between different materials but are amplified by an increase in the density of "surface energy". Most solids will adhere on contact to some extent. However, oxidation films, lubricants and contaminants naturally occurring generally suppress adhesion, [9] and spontaneous exothermic chemical reactions between surfaces generally produce a substance with low energy status in the absorbed species. [10]

Adhesive wear can lead to an increase in roughness and the creation of protrusions (i.e., lumps) above the original surface. In industrial manufacturing, this is referred to as galling, which eventually breaches the oxidized surface layer and connects to the underlying bulk material, enhancing the possibility for a stronger adhesion [10] and plastic flow around the lump.

A simple model for the wear volume for adhesive wear, , can be described by: [11] [12]

where is the load, is the wear coefficient, is the sliding distance, and is the hardness.

Abrasive wear

Deep 'groove' like surface indicates abrasive wear over cast iron (yellow arrow indicate sliding direction) Deep 'groove' like surface indicates abrasive wear over cast iron (yellow arrow indicate sliding direction).jpg
Deep 'groove' like surface indicates abrasive wear over cast iron (yellow arrow indicate sliding direction)

Abrasive wear occurs when a hard rough surface slides across a softer surface. [8] ASTM International defines it as the loss of material due to hard particles or hard protuberances that are forced against and move along a solid surface. [13]

Abrasive wear is commonly classified according to the type of contact and the contact environment. [14] The type of contact determines the mode of abrasive wear. The two modes of abrasive wear are known as two-body and three-body abrasive wear. Two-body wear occurs when the grits or hard particles remove material from the opposite surface. The common analogy is that of material being removed or displaced by a cutting or plowing operation. Three-body wear occurs when the particles are not constrained, and are free to roll and slide down a surface. The contact environment determines whether the wear is classified as open or closed. An open contact environment occurs when the surfaces are sufficiently displaced to be independent of one another

There are a number of factors which influence abrasive wear and hence the manner of material removal. Several different mechanisms have been proposed to describe the manner in which the material is removed. Three commonly identified mechanisms of abrasive wear are:[ citation needed ]

  1. Plowing
  2. Cutting
  3. Fragmentation

Plowing occurs when material is displaced to the side, away from the wear particles, resulting in the formation of grooves that do not involve direct material removal. The displaced material forms ridges adjacent to grooves, which may be removed by subsequent passage of abrasive particles.

Cutting occurs when material is separated from the surface in the form of primary debris, or microchips, with little or no material displaced to the sides of the grooves. This mechanism closely resembles conventional machining.

Fragmentation occurs when material is separated from a surface by a cutting process and the indenting abrasive causes localized fracture of the wear material. These cracks then freely propagate locally around the wear groove, resulting in additional material removal by spalling. [14]

Abrasive wear can be measured as loss of mass by the Taber Abrasion Test according to ISO 9352 or ASTM D 4060.

The wear volume for single-abrasive wear, , can be described by: [12]

where is the load, is the shape factor of an asperity (typically ~ 0.1), is the degrees of wear by an asperity (typically 0.1 to 1.0), is the wear coefficient, is the sliding distance, and is the hardness.

Surface fatigue

Surface fatigue is a process in which the surface of a material is weakened by cyclic loading, which is one type of general material fatigue. Fatigue wear is produced when the wear particles are detached by cyclic crack growth of microcracks on the surface. These microcracks are either superficial cracks or subsurface cracks.

Fretting wear

Fretting wear is the repeated cyclical rubbing between two surfaces. Over a period of time fretting which will remove material from one or both surfaces in contact. It occurs typically in bearings, although most bearings have their surfaces hardened to resist the problem. Another problem occurs when cracks in either surface are created, known as fretting fatigue. It is the more serious of the two phenomena because it can lead to catastrophic failure of the bearing. An associated problem occurs when the small particles removed by wear are oxidized in air. The oxides are usually harder than the underlying metal, so wear accelerates as the harder particles abrade the metal surfaces further. Fretting corrosion acts in the same way, especially when water is present. Unprotected bearings on large structures like bridges can suffer serious degradation in behaviour, especially when salt is used the during winter to deice the highways carried by the bridges. The problem of fretting corrosion was involved in the Silver Bridge tragedy and the Mianus River Bridge accident.

Erosive wear

Erosive wear can be defined as an extremely short sliding motion and is executed within a short time interval. Erosive wear is caused by the impact of particles of solid or liquid against the surface of an object. [9] [15] The impacting particles gradually remove material from the surface through repeated deformations and cutting actions. [16] It is a widely encountered mechanism in industry. Due to the nature of the conveying process, piping systems are prone to wear when abrasive particles have to be transported. [17]

The rate of erosive wear is dependent upon a number of factors. The material characteristics of the particles, such as their shape, hardness, impact velocity and impingement angle are primary factors along with the properties of the surface being eroded. The impingement angle is one of the most important factors and is widely recognized in literature. [18] For ductile materials, the maximum wear rate is found when the impingement angle is approximately 30°, whilst for non-ductile materials the maximum wear rate occurs when the impingement angle is normal to the surface. [18] A detailed theoretical analysis of dependency of the erosive wear on the inclination angle and material properties is provided in. [19]

For a given particle morphology, the erosion rate, , can be fit with a power law dependence on velocity: [15]

where is a constant, is velocity, and is a velocity exponent. is typically between 2 - 2.5 for metals and 2.5 - 3 for ceramics.

Corrosion and oxidation wear

Corrosion and oxidation wear occurs both in lubricated and dry contacts. The fundamental cause are chemical reactions between the worn material and the corroding medium. [20] Wear caused by a synergistic action of tribological stresses and corrosion is also called tribocorrosion.

Wear stages

Under nominal operation conditions, the wear rate normally changes in three different stages:[ citation needed ]

Note that the wear rate is strongly influenced by the operating conditions and the formation of tribofilms. The secondary stage is shortened with increasing severity of environmental conditions, such as high temperatures, strain rates and stresses.

So-called wear maps, demonstrating wear rate under different operation condition, are used to determine stable operation points for tribological contacts. Wear maps also show dominating wear modes under different loading conditions.[ citation needed ]

In explicit wear tests simulating industrial conditions between metallic surfaces, there are no clear chronological distinction between different wear-stages due to big overlaps and symbiotic relations between various friction mechanisms. Surface engineering and treatments are used to minimize wear and extend the components working life. [1] [21]

Wear testing

Several standard test methods exist for different types of wear to determine the amount of material removal during a specified time period under well-defined conditions. ASTM International Committee G-2 standardizes wear testing for specific applications, which are periodically updated. The Society for Tribology and Lubrication Engineers (STLE) has documented a large number of frictional, wear and lubrication tests. Standardized wear tests are used to create comparative material rankings for a specific set of test parameter as stipulated in the test description. To obtain more accurate predictions of wear in industrial applications it is necessary to conduct wear testing under conditions simulating the exact wear process.

An attrition test is a test that is carried out to measure the resistance of a granular material to wear.

Modeling of wear

The Reye–Archard–Khrushchov wear law is the classic wear prediction model. [22]

Measuring wear

Wear coefficient

The wear coefficient is a physical coefficient used to measure, characterize and correlate the wear of materials.

Lubricant analysis

Lubricant analysis is an alternative, indirect way of measuring wear. Here, wear is detected by the presence of wear particles in a liquid lubricant. To gain further insights into the nature of the particles, chemical (such as XRF, ICP-OES), structural (such as ferrography) or optical analysis (such as light microscopy) can be performed. [23]

See also

Related Research Articles

Friction Force resisting the relative motion of solid surfaces, fluid layers, and material elements sliding against each other

Friction is the force resisting the relative motion of solid surfaces, fluid layers, and material elements sliding against each other. There are several types of friction:

A lubricant is a substance that helps to reduce friction between surfaces in mutual contact, which ultimately reduces the heat generated when the surfaces move. It may also have the function of transmitting forces, transporting foreign particles, or heating or cooling the surfaces. The property of reducing friction is known as lubricity.

Tribology is the science and engineering of interacting surfaces in relative motion. It includes the study and application of the principles of friction, lubrication, and wear. Tribology is highly interdisciplinary. It draws on many academic fields, including physics, chemistry, materials science, mathematics, biology, and engineering. People who work in the field of tribology are referred to as tribologists.

Rolling-element bearing

A rolling-element bearing, also known as a rolling bearing, is a bearing which carries a load by placing rolling elements between two bearing rings called races. The relative motion of the races causes the rolling elements to roll with very little rolling resistance and with little sliding.

False brinelling

False brinelling is a bearing damage caused by fretting, with or without corrosion, that causes imprints that look similar to brinelling, but are caused by a different mechanism. False brinelling may occur in bearings which act under small oscillations or vibrations.

Galling A form of wear caused by adhesion between sliding surfaces

Galling is a form of wear caused by adhesion between sliding surfaces. When a material galls, some of it is pulled with the contacting surface, especially if there is a large amount of force compressing the surfaces together. Galling is caused by a combination of friction and adhesion between the surfaces, followed by slipping and tearing of crystal structure beneath the surface. This will generally leave some material stuck or even friction welded to the adjacent surface, whereas the galled material may appear gouged with balled-up or torn lumps of material stuck to its surface.

Nanotribology is the branch of tribology that studies friction, wear, adhesion and lubrication phenomena at the nanoscale, where atomic interactions and quantum effects are not negligible. The aim of this discipline is characterizing and modifying surfaces for both scientific and technological purposes.

Fretting Wear process that occurs at the contact area between two materials under load and subject to minute relative motion

Fretting refers to wear and sometimes corrosion damage at the asperities of contact surfaces. This damage is induced under load and in the presence of repeated relative surface motion, as induced for example by vibration. The ASM Handbook on Fatigue and Fracture defines fretting as: "A special wear process that occurs at the contact area between two materials under load and subject to minute relative motion by vibration or some other force." Fretting tangibly degrades the surface layer quality producing increased surface roughness and micropits, which reduces the fatigue strength of the components.

Tribometer An instrument that measures tribological quantities

A tribometer is an instrument that measures tribological quantities, such as coefficient of friction, friction force, and wear volume, between two surfaces in contact. It was invented by the 18th century Dutch scientist Musschenbroek

Compacted oxide layer glaze describes the often shiny, wear-protective layer of oxide formed when two metals are slid against each other at high temperature in an oxygen-containing atmosphere. The layer forms on either or both of the surfaces in contact and can protect against wear.

The Archard wear equation is a simple model used to describe sliding wear and is based on the theory of asperity contact. The Archard equation was developed much later than Reye's hypothesis, though both came to the same physical conclusions, that the volume of the removed debris due to wear is proportional to the work done by friction forces. Theodor Reye's model became popular in Europe and it is still taught in university courses of applied mechanics. Until recently, Reye's theory of 1860 has, however, been totally ignored in English and American literature where subsequent works by Ragnar Holm and John Frederick Archard are usually cited. In 1960, Mikhail Mikhailovich Khrushchov and Mikhail Alekseevich Babichev published a similar model as well. In modern literature, the relation is therefore also known as Reye–Archard–Khrushchov wear law.

Sliding is a type of frictional motion between two surfaces in contact. This can be contrasted to rolling motion. Both types of motion may occur in bearings.

Erosion corrosion is a degradation of material surface due to mechanical action, often by impinging liquid, abrasion by a slurry, particles suspended in fast flowing liquid or gas, bubbles or droplets, cavitation, etc. The mechanism can be described as follows:

Dry lubricants or solid lubricants are materials that, despite being in the solid phase, are able to reduce friction between two surfaces sliding against each other without the need for a liquid oil medium.

Tribocorrosion Material degradation due to corrosion and wear.

Tribocorrosion is a material degradation process due to the combined effect of corrosion and wear. The name tribocorrosion expresses the underlying disciplines of tribology and corrosion. Tribology is concerned with the study of friction, lubrication and wear and corrosion is concerned with the chemical and electrochemical interactions between a material, normally a metal, and its environment. As a field of research tribocorrosion is relatively new, but tribocorrosion phenomena have been around ever since machines and installations are being used.

The wear coefficient is a physical coefficient used to measure, characterize and correlate the wear of materials.

Tribofilms are films that form on tribologically stressed surfaces. Tribofilms are mostly solid surface films that result from a chemical reaction of lubricant components or tribological surfaces.

Tribo-fatigue Subdiscipline of mechanics

Tribo-fatigue is a discipline of mechanics, which studies wear-fatigue damage (WFD) in and the fracture of tribo-fatigue systems (TFS). The field was founded at the junction of tribology, and mechanics of fatigue damage and fracture in materials and structural elements.

Kenneth Holmberg Finnish engineer

Kenneth Gösta Holmberg is a Finnish professor emeritus in Mechanical Engineering, especially Tribology,

Extreme tribology

Extreme tribology refers to tribological situations under extreme operating conditions which can be related to high loads and/or temperatures, or severe environments. Also, they may be related to high transitory contact conditions, or to situations with near-impossible monitoring and maintenance opportunities. In general, extreme conditions can typically be categorized as involving abnormally high or excessive exposure to e.g. cold, heat, pressure, vacuum, voltage, corrosive chemicals, vibration, or dust. The extreme conditions should include any device or system requiring a lubricant operating under any of the following conditions:


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Further reading