Elastohydrodynamic lubrication: A gateway to interfacial mechanics - Review and prospect

Dong Zhu*, Q. Jane Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Elastohydrodynamic Lubrication (EHL) is commonly known as a mode of fluid-film lubrication in which the mechanism of hydrodynamic film formation is enhanced by surface elastic deformation and lubricant viscosity increase due to high pressure. It has been an active and challenging field of research since the 1950s. Significant breakthroughs achieved in the last 10-15 years are largely in the area of mixed EHL, in which surface asperity contact and hydrodynamic lubricant film coexist. Mixed EHL is of the utmost importance not only because most power-transmitting components operate in this regime, but also due to its theoretical universality that dry contact and full-film lubrication are in fact its special cases under extreme conditions. In principle, mixed EHL has included the basic physical elements for modeling contact, or hydrodynamic lubrication, or both together. The unified mixed lubrication models that have recently been developed are now capable of simulating the entire transition of interfacial status from full-film and mixed lubrication down to dry contact with an integrated mathematic formulation and numerical approach. This has indeed bridged the two branches of engineering science, contact mechanics, and hydrodynamic lubrication theory, which have been traditionally separate since the 1880s mainly due to the lack of powerful analytical and numerical tools. The recent advancement in mixed EHL begins to bring contact and lubrication together, and thus an evolving concept of Interfacial Mechanics can be proposed in order to describe interfacial phenomena more precisely and collaborate with research in other related fields, such as interfacial physics and chemistry, more closely. This review paper briefly presents snapshots of the history of EHL research, and also expresses the authors' opinions about its further development as a gateway to interfacial mechanics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number41001
JournalJournal of Tribology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2011


  • EHL
  • contact mechanics
  • elastohydrodynamic lubrication
  • hydrodynamic lubrication
  • interfacial mechanics
  • mixed EHL
  • mixed lubrication
  • surface contact

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films

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