What is Tribology?

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  • Written By: Haven Esme
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 January 2020
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Tribology, a science that studies how friction and lubrication work together, has been used since ancient times. By understanding friction and lubrication, a tribologist is better able to reduce the corrosion of numerous machines and products. There are four things that a tribologist must study to prevent wear and tear: abrasion, erosion, corrosion and adhesion.

Lubrication is one of the most essential ingredients in tribology. Tribologists use lubrication to make something more slippery to reduce friction, overheating, and tearing. Lubrication is most often used to reduce the friction on moving parts. The two main ingredients used as lubricants are grease and oil.

By using lubricants or finishes over a surface, tribologists and engineers can prevent or eliminate wear, extending the working life of thousands of pieces of equipment and products. For this reason, tribology is applied when deciding how to design common things that are used in everyday life. The science applies to many aspects of modern technology.

Even products like hair conditioner and lipstick are designed with tribology in mind, as tribologists are interested in how products can most effectively move against the skin with ease. Tribology is the only branch in science and technology that is concerned with how surfaces interact with each other in relative motion.


This science is especially important to manufacturers. Friction against metal can cause corrosion and eventual destruction. Tribologists have the potential to develop lubricants that can be used as a protective layer against metal. Lubricants have been known to make things more effective and powerful.

Tribology is a common concept in the automotive and oil industry. It is used to reduce the amount of friction that occurs in man-made machines, such as automobiles. The automobile industry is one of the fields that heavily involve tribologists in their design decisions.

One benefit of the science is that it helps to save energy by making things wear-resistant. Saving energy results in improved efficiency. This results in smoother operations for manufacturers who apply this science to their environment.

Tribologists often have an extensive background in chemical engineering, physics, chemistry, metallography, and physical metallurgy. There are very few tribologists worldwide, but they can provide expert advice on the most effective manner to minimize the effects of friction. There are research groups in this science located around the world.


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