Skin tribology: Science friction?

Emile van der Heide, Xiangqiong Zeng, Marc Arthur Masen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)
321 Downloads (Pure)


The application of tribological knowledge is not just restricted to optimizing mechanical and chemical engineering problems. In fact, effective solutions to friction and wear related questions can be found in our everyday life. An important part is related to skin tribology, as the human skin is frequently one of the interacting surfaces in relative motion. People seem to solve these problems related to skin friction based upon a trial-and-error strategy and based upon on our sense for touch. The question of course rises whether or not a trained tribologist would make different choices based upon a science based strategy? In other words: Is skin friction part of the larger knowledge base that has been generated during the last decades by tribology research groups and which could be referred to as Science Friction? This paper discusses the specific nature of tribological systems that include the human skin and argues that the living nature of skin limits the use of conventional methods. Skin tribology requires in vivo, subject and anatomical location specific test methods. Current predictive friction models can only partially be applied to predict in vivo skin friction. The reason for this is found in limited understanding of the contact mechanics at the asperity level of product-skin interactions. A recently developed model gives the building blocks for enhanced understanding of friction at the micro scale. Only largely simplified power law based equations are currently available as general engineering tools. Finally, the need for friction control is illustrated by elaborating on the role of skin friction on discomfort and comfort. Surface texturing and polymer brush coatings are promising directions as they provide way and means to tailor friction in sliding contacts without the need of major changes to the product
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-142
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • IR-91049
  • METIS-302782


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