Regimes of soft lubrication

Martin H. Essink, Anupam Pandey, Stefan Karpitschka, Cornelis H. Venner, Jacco H. Snoeijer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Elastohydrodynamic lubrication, or simply soft lubrication, refers to the motion of deformable objects near a boundary lubricated by a fluid, and is one of the key physical mechanisms to minimise friction and wear in natural and engineered systems. Hence, it is of particular interest to relate the thickness of the lubricant layer to the entrainment (sliding/rolling) velocity, the mechanical loading exerted onto the contacting elements and the properties of the elastic boundary. In this work, we provide an overview of the various regimes of soft lubrication for two-dimensional cylinders in lubricated contact with compliant walls. We discuss the limits of small and large entrainment velocity, which are equivalent to large and small elastic deformations, as the cylinder moves near thick or thin elastic layers. The analysis focusses on thin elastic coatings, both compressible and incompressible, for which analytical scaling laws are not yet available in the regime of large deformations. By analysing the elastohydrodynamic boundary layers that appear at the edge of the contact, we establish the missing scaling laws - including prefactors. As such, we offer a rather complete overview of the physically relevant limits of soft lubrication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA49
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Key words lubrication theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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