Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
nC2 An Enterprise Consultancy Unit

What is Tribology?

Tribology is the science behind understanding friction, wear and lubrication. A lack of understanding, recognition and prevention of these forms of degradation affects all industry sectors (Bio, Transport, Food, Energy etc). According to UK Tribology (consortium of IET, IMechE, IOM3, IoP and RSC) uncontrolled friction, lubrication, surface selection and wear financially costs the UK industry ~1.4% of GDP (~£27Bn) per year. Added to this are safety issues raised by product/system failures.

nCATS is the national Centre for Advanced Tribology at Southampton, which has been providing teaching and long-term research into Tribology for many years. Our Unit provides industry with access to these facilities and expertise. Below is a video introducing tribology at Southampton.

To help explain tribology and its daily effect on our lives we often use the example of a child’s bike to highlight where tribology must be considered in the design. This provides answers to a quiz we often give visitors and school children who attend our outreach event days. From the picture we can see that even on a child’s bike, tribology must be considered in the design for it to operate correctly. Some components are designed to provide high friction (tyre tread, brake pads) and others low friction (axle bearings, cable grease). Now try to imagine how much tribology work goes into designing a helicopter, engine, assembly line, wind-turbine etc.

Tribology in Bike Design
The locations on a bike where tribology must be considered in the design
Privacy Settings