Tribology and the Control of Friction
An advanced Greek element tribo- and Its Modern Applications
Back to part 1 of tribology
Now you know what nanotribology means, don’t you? If you want to know
more about nanotribology, here are excerpts of other definitions; but be
WARNED that if they are too confusing or of no interest to you, you may scroll down
to the area where other tribo- words are presented. Don’t give up before
you see the rest of the list.
Micro/nanotribology as a field is concerned with experimental and theoretical investigations
of processes ranging from atomic and molecular scales to the microscale, occurring
during adhesion, friction, wear, and thin-film lubrication at sliding surfaces.
This involves determination of the chemical, physical and mechanical properties
of the surfaces undergoing relative motion at length scales of the order of nanometers.
Interaction between rubbing surfaces occurs at asperities [roughness of surfaces]
at which the local pressure and temperatures can be very high.
These conditions can lead to formation of tribochemical films with the unusual properties
necessary for efficient wear protection. The nanomechanical properties of these
films are being investigated by interfacial force microscopy (IFM) which is capable
of determining the elastic constants and anelastic behavior of the films in boundary
Proposed nanotribology experiments for the Triboscope include studying the effect
of different contact areas, scan directions and crystallographic orientations on
both lubricated and unlubricated surfaces.
Tribology is the study of friction, lubrication and wear. Nanotribology is roughly
defined as the study of these same phenomena down to the nN and nanometer force
and length scales.
I hope I haven’t lost you in the sea of obfuscation (confusion, obscurity,
or bewilderment) because there are other interesting words to learn. Here are additional
examples that are derived from tribo-:
- triboelectric, an electrical charge produced by friction between two objects;
such as, rubbing silk on a glass surface.
- triboelectricity, in physics, electrical charges produced by friction between
two surfaces; static electricity.
Frictional electricity … was supposedly known to the ancient Greeks, particularly
Thales of Miletus, who observed about 600 B.C. that when amber was rubbed, it would
attract small bits of matter. The term “frictional electricity” gave way
to “triboelectricity,” although since “tribo” means “to
rub,” the newer term does little to change the concept.
-A.D. Moore (as seen in The American Heritage Dictionary of Science
by Robert K. Barnhart; Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston; 1986).
- tribofluorescence, triboflurescent; to give off light as a result of friction.
- tribologist, a specialist in the science of tribology.
- tribology, tribological, the science of the mechanisms of friction, lubrication,
and wear of interacting surfaces that are in relative motion.
- triboluminescence, the quality of emitting light under friction or violent
- triboluminescent, exhibiting triboluminescence.
- tribophosphorescence, tribophosphorescent; to produce light by friction.
- tribothermoluminescence, thermoluminescence [luminescence resulting from
exposure to high temperature] produced in a material as a result of friction.
- tribometer, an instrument for estimating sliding friction.
- tribophysics, the physical properties or phenomena associated with friction.
- tribophosphoroscope, an instrument for examining triboluminescence.
- tribulation, originally from Greek; then through Latin, “to press; affliction”;
distress, great trial, or affliction.
“The Roman tribulum was a sledge consisting of a wooden block studded
with sharp pieces of flint or iron teeth. It was used to bring force and pressure
against wheat in grinding out grain. The machine suggested the way trouble grinds
people down and oppresses them, tribulations becoming another word for troubles
and afflictions. The word is first recorded in English in 1330.”.
From the Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson;
Facts On File, Inc., New York; 1997.
The Romans ground out their corn [make that grain-J.R.] with a heavy roller,
mentioned in Vergil’s Georgics among agricultural instruments: the tribulum,
diminutive noun, from tritere, trit —, to rub, from Greek tribein,
to rub. Being ground under and pressed out made an excellent metaphor to express
the trials and tribulations of the early Christians.
From a Dictionary of Word Origins by Joseph T. Shipley.