Friction in the contact between skin and a soft counter material: Effects of hardness and surface finish

M. Klaassen, E.G. de Vries, M. A. Masen*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    The interaction behaviour of skin with a counter surface depends strongly on the surface roughness of the counter surface. For relatively hard surfaces this effect is described in various literature, but for soft, or compliant, materials this is much less studied. Inside the contact, the protuberances on the surface will deform substantially. In order to gain insights into the effect of surface roughness and hardness on the frictional behaviour between skin and a soft counter surface a range of experiments were performed using artificial skin and various silicone compounds which are commonly used in medical devices that interact with the human skin. Using these results, a ‘friction map’ was created that shows the friction behaviour as a function of the elastic modulus and the surface roughness. When the surface roughness is increased the friction coefficient decreases due to the reduction in the real area of contact, which weakens the adhesion between the two surfaces. A minimum coefficient of friction was observed at a surface roughness of approximately 4 µm. For the softest compounds tested there was minimal effect of surface roughness on friction because the roughness protuberances inside the contact will be flattened. Silicone compounds with increased hardness showed a larger sensitivity of the friction to the surface roughness, because these harder surface roughness protuberances are more resistant against deformation. The friction map provides a tool when designing products that require certain frictional properties: for products that are required to adhere to skin a smooth and soft material is recommended, whereas for products that require a low coefficient of friction a harder compound with a surface roughness of approximately 4 µm is recommended.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)137-143
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of the mechanical behavior of biomedical materials
    Early online date10 Jan 2019
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


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