Fluorescence microscopy visualization of the roughness-induced transition between lubrication regimes

Dina Petrova*, Bart Weber, Cleménce Allain, Pierre Audebert, Cees H. Venner, Albert M. Brouwer, Daniel Bonn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


We investigate the transition between different regimes of lubrication and directly observe the thickness of nanometric lubrication films with a sensitivity of a single molecular layer at a multi-asperity interface through fluorescence microscopy. We redefine specific film thickness as the ratio of the lubricant film thickness and the surface roughness measured only at those regions of the interface where the gap is “minimal.” This novel definition of specific film thickness successfully captures the transition from full elastohydrodynamic lubrication to mixed and boundary lubrication. The transition can be triggered by increasing the surface roughness and is accurately predicted by using the new film thickness definition. We find that when the liquid carries part of the load, its apparent viscosity is greatly increased by confinement, and show how the transition between different lubrication regimes is well described by the viscosity increase and subsequent glass transition in the film.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbereaaw4761
JournalScience advances
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2019


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