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Tribology – The study of interacting surfaces

Tribology – The study of interacting surfaces

The study of surfaces moving relative to each other is known as tribology, and it is a Greek word. The word “trib” means “I rub” and a big part of it is friction. Tribology was started in the 1960s by the lubrication expert Peter Jost and the physicist David Tabor. However, around 5000 years back, Egyptians are presumed to have used a variety of lubricants to shift stones while building the pyramids and might have had a comprehensive understanding of how friction works. After that, the first laws of friction were derived by Leonardo Da Vinci.

We all know that Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) was one of the first scholars to study friction systematically. Even in late 1400s, he understood the importance of friction and how it would impact the working of machines. He focused on all kinds of friction and drew a distinction between sliding and rolling friction.

Recently discovered texts which are supposed to be the handwritten notes of Leonardo Da Vinci have detailed sketches of four types of antifriction which are used commonly these days. It gives an insight into his understanding of the subject and how Leonardo was ahead of Newton’s laws of motion by about 200 years! So how are these laws important today and why should we study them?

Leonardo Da Vinci’s book dates back to 1493 and is a tiny notebook that measures just 92mm x 63mm. This book is currently held in the Victoria and Albert Museum in the United Kingdom.

Tribology helps us understand how interactive surfaces behave and apply these studies to various fields including physics, chemistry, biology and engineering. More importantly, we can understand how lubrication can help ease the movement of various substances in a mathematical way.

Though Leonardo Da Vinci never published his works or claimed credit for the discovery of the laws of friction, his deep understanding of the subject has become a delight to the scientists and common men equally. As we read in the previous article (Why is Banana skin slippery?), tribology finds application in dental, orthopedic implants, food sensory issues and translational tissue engineering.


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