Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

Introduction to Friction and Wear

ME 59700 / 3 Cr.

Introduces engineering students to the fundamentals of tribology and its engineering applications. Topics include friction, wear and lubrication theories and how models can be appplied to assess and design against damage and failure of contacting structural components (mechanical & biological).


Williams, J.A., "Engineering Tribology", Oxford University Press, 1994


Energy losses due to friction and wear have major implications in machine performance. Some estimates predict over 20% of the worlds energy resources are spent in overcoming losses associated with friction. Friction and wear also have implications to the function of biological joints significantly affecting an individual's quality of life. This course develops a working understanding of the mechanisms, models and pratical design issues associated with tribological systems including bearings (journal, thrust, and roller bearings), gears, splines, slides, seals, axels, riveted lap joints, clutches, breaks, traction drives, aerospace engine attachments, and biological/articular joints to name a few.


After completion of this course, the students should be able to:

  1. Explain the fundamental friction and wear phenomena that occur when surfaces come into contact 
  2. Characterize lubricant properties
  3. Utilize basic tribological concepts in machine design and lubrication
  4. Analyze hydrodynamic lubrication in journal bearings 
  5. Analyze elastohydrodynamic lubrication in roller element bearing and gears
  6. Analyze hydrodynamic and elastohydrodynamic lubrication in biological joints
  7. Participate in research and development in areas where tribological concepts are implemented

Note: The letters within the brackets indicate the general program outcomes of mechanical engineering. See: ME Program Outcomes.

  1. Introduction to Tribology - History & Practical Application
  2. Surface Characterization - The statistical nature of surfaces
  3. Surfaces in Contact - Mechanics and stresses
  4. Surfaces in Contact - Friction and friction theories, frictional heating
  5. Surfaces in Contact - Wear and wear theories
  6. Lubrication - Lubrication regimes
  7. Lubrication - Lubricants and Lubrication Properties
  8. Lubrication - Hydrodynamic - Journal bearings
  9. Lubrication - Elastohydrodynamic - Roller element bearings, Gears
  10. Special Tribology Topics and Projects
    • Fretting fatigue in aerospace turbomachinery
    • Solid Lubricants
    • Materials and coatings
    • Design considerations
    • Tribology of biological joints
Assignments, Exams, and Grading

Homework assignments (25%), quizzes (10%), (project (10%), mid-term exam (20%), final exam (35%)