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Prediction of contact surface temperature between rough sliding bodies – numerical analysis and experiments

Sudipto Ray (General Motors Technical Center, Bangalore, India)
S.K. Roy Chowdhury (Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT Kharagpur, Kharagpur, India)

Industrial Lubrication and Tribology

ISSN: 0036-8792

Article publication date: 16 August 2011



The paper's aim is to predict numerically the contact temperatures between two rough sliding bodies and to compare with the experimental results.


An elastic contact algorithm is used to analyze the normal contact between two nominally smooth surfaces. The algorithm evaluates real contact area using digitized roughness data and the corresponding contact pressure distribution. Using finite element method a steady state 3D temperature distribution at the interface between the sliding bodies is obtained. Using infrared (IR) imaging technique, experiments were carried out to measure the contact temperature distribution between rough rubbing bodies with a systematic variation of surface roughness and operating variables.


Contact temperature distributions over a wide range of normal load, sliding velocity and surface roughness have been obtained. It was seen that the maximum contact temperature expectedly increases with surface roughness (Sa values), normal load and sliding velocity. The results also indicate that the “hot spots” are located exactly at the positions where the contact pressures are extremely high. Temperatures can be seen to fall drastically at areas where no asperity contacts were established. The temperature contours at different depths were also plotted and it was observed that the temperatures fall away from the actual contact zone and relatively high temperatures persist at the “hot spot” zones much below the contact surface. Finally it is encouraging to find a good correlation between the numerical and experimental results and this indicates the strength of the present analysis.

Research limitations/implications

Experimental accuracy can be improved by using a thermal imaging camera that measures emissivity in situ and uses it to find the contact temperature. The spatial resolution and the response time of the camera also need to be improved. This can improve the correlation between numerical and experimental results.

Practical implications

One of the major factors attributed to the failure of sliding components is the frictional heating and the resulting flash temperatures at the sliding interface. However, it is not easy to measure such temperatures owing to the inherent difficulties in accessing the contact zone. Besides, thermal imaging techniques can be applied only with such tribo‐pairs where at least one of the contacting materials is transparent to IR radiation. In practice, such cases are a rarity. However, the good correlation observed between the numerical and experimental results in this work would give the practicing engineer a confidence to apply the numerical model directly and calculate contact temperatures for any tribo‐material pairs that are generally seen around.


A good correlation between the numerical and experimental results gives credence to the fact that the numerical model can be used to predict contact temperatures between any sliding tribo‐pairs.



Ray, S. and Roy Chowdhury, S.K. (2011), "Prediction of contact surface temperature between rough sliding bodies – numerical analysis and experiments", Industrial Lubrication and Tribology, Vol. 63 No. 5, pp. 327-343.



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