An Adhesion-Dominated Rolling Friction Regime Unique to Micro-scale Ball Bearings


We demonstrate that micro-scale rolling bearings exhibit friction and wear properties markedly different from their macro-scale counterparts. A microfabricated testing platform uses variable rolling element diameters or vapor-phase lubricated interfaces to independently test friction force with varying contact area and surface energy. A linear, consistent, relationship between friction force and contact area is observed among different rolling element diameters. When surface free energy is altered through the introduction of vapor-phase lubrication, an 83 % decrease in friction is observed. When coupled with observed ball material adhered to the raceway, there is strong evidence for adhesion-dominated rolling friction regime at the micro-scale.

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This work was supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation under award no. 0901411. We would also like to acknowledge the Maryland Nanocenter and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Cleanroom Staff.

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Correspondence to Brendan M. Hanrahan.

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Brendan M. Hanrahan was formerly with Materials Science and Engineering Department, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, MD, 20704, USA.

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Hanrahan, B.M., Misra, S., Beyaz, M.I. et al. An Adhesion-Dominated Rolling Friction Regime Unique to Micro-scale Ball Bearings. Tribol Lett 56, 215–221 (2014).

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  • Vapor- phase lubrication
  • Silicon
  • Ball bearings
  • Adhesive wear
  • MEMS