Fundamentals of Tribology

November 8, 2012

Authors: Ramsey Gohar and Homer Rahnejat

Edition: Second

Publisher: Imperial College Press/World Scientific

Pages: 460

Price: £59.00

ISBN: 9781848168602

I'm proud to be a tribologist, although sadly this declaration doesn't excite many people at parties. Based on the Greek tribo, "to rub", tribology is the science of friction, lubrication and wear. The second edition of Fundamentals of Tribology admirably covers many of the basics of tribology. But it is a traditional text, diving quickly into equations, symbols and calculations. And although it is fine as a reference book, to me it fails to convey the wonder of tribology, apart from Duncan Dowson's chapter on bio-tribology. I see tribology as a fascinating discipline that goes beyond the three phenomena of friction, lubrication and wear to the many underlying sciences that influence them.

These sciences include surface topography, material properties, massive localised contact stresses, surface chemistry, engineering design, precision measurements and viscosity. I could go on. Don't even get me started on the myriad types of bearings - I could wax lyrical over the beauty and sophistication of a double-row spherical roller bearing if someone at that party were unfortunate enough to ask. What particularly enthuses me about tribology is that you can start with one effect and that leads to something different. Let's take a simple example from just two of the six (although the number is still under debate) wear regimes. Adhesive wear (which is due to massive localised contact stresses) releases individual wear particles that provoke three-body abrasive wear. Occasionally such "third-body" wear particles can have a positive effect in that they allow two surfaces to slide over one another more easily, like millions of tiny ball bearings. Now I'm being flippant, as technically a ball bearing actually consists of spherical rolling elements, a cage to separate them, and an inner and outer race - great party, huh? Tribology allows us to walk (we need the friction between foot and ground) and our joints are the most fabulous bearings ever designed. However, if disease should strike, tribology is fundamental in allowing us to replace human joints with artificial ones.

I appreciate that because books such as this will never be bestsellers, publishers are unlikely to invest in colour images or flashy presentation, but here I wanted fascination first and equations second. What's more, I think students would connect more strongly with the book and the science it represents through practical applications and examples. The authors repeatedly say that, even at 400-plus pages, this is an "elementary" text. But there is still no room for the basic student question: "How do I choose a bearing?" They would have to look elsewhere to answer that.

Who is it for? Undergraduate (most likely final-year) engineers and postgraduate engineers.

Presentation: Conventional.

Would you recommend it? As a supporting text, yes.

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