Module information on this degree can be found below, separated by year of study.

The module information below applies for the current academic year. The academic year runs from August to July; the 'current year' switches over at the end of July.

Students select optional courses subject to rules specified in the Mechanical Engineering Student Handbook,  for example at most three Design and Business courses. Please note that numbers are limited on some optional courses and selection criteria will apply.

Tribology A

Module aims

The overall aim of the Tribology Course is to provide students with a general and useful introduction to the main concepts and principles of Tribology (friction, lubrication and wear), with particular emphasis on lubricated systems. It is recognised that the field of Tribology is very large and multidisciplinary and that it is thus impossible to cover all aspects of the subject adequately. Instead the Tribology Course focuses on those areas of Tribology particularly relevant to the design and performance of lubricated machine components. The Course covers the underlying principles and provides an extensive set of handout notes and references aimed at assisting students comprehend and address tribological problems that they may meeting in their future engineering careers, even those outside the areas directly covered by the Course.

ECTS units:  5    

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing this module, students will be able to:

  • Discuss - making appropriate use of technical terminology - the main laws and concepts of Tribology and their historical development
  • Explain the origins and characteristics of the main lubrication regimes and the machine components and conditions in which each is likely to be prevalent
  • Describe the main materials used in plain bearings, rolling element bearings and gears and the reasons for the materials being used
  • Discuss the composition, specification and performance of liquid lubricants
  • Identify the main types of tribologically-induced surface damage from photographs
  • Describe the mechanisms and origins of the main forms of tribological damage, and of current ways of predicting the onset or accumulation of such damage
  • Solve problems concerning the pressure, temperature, contact area and friction between rough and smooth bearing surfaces in machine components
  • Derive Reynolds equation, and list and explain the main assumptions underlying this equation and its subsequent approximations
  • Solve problems concerning the hydrodynamic film thickness and friction of plain thrust and journal bearings and other lubricated conformal contacts
  • Solve problems concerning the elastohydrodynamic film thickness in rolling element bearings and other lubricated non-conformal contacts
  • Solve problems concerning prediction of the wear and fatigue life of bearings

Module syllabus

  • The science and technology of rubbing surfaces: lubrication, friction and wear
  • Contact mechanics: the contact of rough and smooth surfaces; surface topography, solid/solid friction
  • Lubricant film generation: liquid viscosity and its measurement, characteristics and specification; derivation and approximations to Reynolds' equation
  • Regimes of lubrication: hydrodynamic lubrication, hydrostatic lubrication, squeeze films, elastohydrodynamic lubrication, mixed and boundary lubrication, practical application of these types of lubrication; plain bearings, rolling element bearings, gears
  • Nature and properties of rubbing materials: material composition, properties and treatments for machine components; lubricant and grease composition; additives, lubricant specification
  • Types, mechanisms and prevention of tribological damage: wear, scuffing, rolling contact fatigue, performance charts, monitoring the health of lubricated systems.

Teaching methods

  • Duration: Autumn and Spring terms (21 weeks)
  • Lectures: After an introductory lecture, 1 hr/week during Autumn and Spring Terms (except for one Tutorial hour).
  • Tutorials: A set of one hour tutorials are arranged in the late afternoon, four per term plus one revision one in the Summer term just before the exam. One tutorial is also held in place of a lecture in the middle of the Spring term, at a strategic point in the course.

Summary of student timetabled hours







Study groups/Tutorials

Tutorials are not normally timetabled for ME3/4 Options.  The Course Leader may arrange them according to staff and student numbers; they will not exceed one hour per two lecture hours.


27 (assuming 6 tutorials attended)

Expected private study time

3-4 hrs per week, plus exam revision



Written examinations:

Date (approx.)

Max. mark

Pass mark

Tribology (3h)


A handbook of Data and Formulae is provided.

This is an CLOSED BOOK Examination, although a set of course notes will be provided in the exam.

April/ May




Coursework (including progress tests, oral presentations etc.)

Submission date

Max. mark

Pass mark



Worked solution of six of the tutorial sheets


At end of exam



Total marks


Module leaders

Dr Janet Wong