Lubrication of soft viscoelastic solids

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Lubrication flows appear in many applications in engineering, biophysics, and in nature. Separation of surfaces and minimisation of friction and wear is achieved when the lubrication fluid builds up a lift force. In this paper we analyse soft lubricated contacts by treating the solid walls as viscoelastic: soft materials are typically not purely elastic, but dissipate energy under dynamical loading conditions. We present a method for viscoelastic lubrication and focus on three canonical examples, namely Kelvin-Voigt-, Standard Linear-, and Power Law-rheology. It is shown how the solid viscoelasticity affects the lubrication process when the timescale of loading becomes comparable to the rheological timescale. We derive asymptotic relations between lift force and sliding velocity, which give scaling laws that inherit a signature of the rheology. In all cases the lift is found to decrease with respect to purely elastic systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-447
JournalJournal of fluid mechanics
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2016


  • IR-99425
  • METIS-315329

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