Date of Award

May 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Michael Nosonovsky

Committee Members

Roshan D'souza, Konstantin Sobolev, Junhong Chen, Kurt E. Beschorner


Friction, Instabilities, Self-Organization, Tribology


The field of friction-induced self-organization and its practical importance remains unknown territory to many tribologists. Friction is usually thought of as irreversible dissipation of energy and deterioration; however, under certain conditions, friction can lead to the formation of new structures at the interface, including in-situ tribofilms and various patterns at the interface.

This thesis studies self-organization and instabilities at the frictional interface, including the instability due to the temperature-dependency of the coefficient of friction, the transient process of frictional running-in, frictional Turing systems, the stick-and-slip phenomenon, and, finally, contact angle (CA) hysteresis as an example of solid-liquid friction and dissipation. All these problems are chosen to bridge the gap between fundamental interest in understanding the conditions leading to self-organization and practical motivation.

We study the relationship between friction-induced instabilities and friction-induced self-organization. Friction is usually thought of as a stabilizing factor; however, sometimes it leads to the instability of sliding, in particular when friction is coupled with another process. Instabilities constitute the main mechanism for pattern formation. At first, a stationary structure loses its stability; after that, vibrations with increasing amplitude occur, leading to a limit cycle corresponding to a periodic pattern. The self-organization is usually beneficial for friction and wear reduction because the tribological systems tend to enter a state with the lowest energy dissipation.

The introductory chapter starts with basic definitions related to self-organization, instabilities and friction, literature review, and objectives. We discuss fundamental concepts that provide a methodological tool to investigate, understand and enhance beneficial processes in tribosystems which might lead to self-organization. These processes could result in the ability of a frictional surface to exhibit "self-protection" and "self-healing" properties. Hence, this research is dealing with the fundamental concepts that allow the possibility of the development of a new generation of tribosystem and materials that reinforce such properties.

In chapter 2, we investigate instabilities due to the temperature-dependency of the coefficient of friction. The temperature-dependency of the coefficient of friction can have a significant effect on the frictional sliding stability, by leading to the formation of "hot" and "cold" spots on the contacting surfaces. We formulate a stability criterion and perform a case study of a brake disk. We show that the mechanism of instability can contribute to poor reproducibility of aircraft disk brake tests reported in the literature. Furthermore, a method to increase the reproducibility by dividing the disk into several sectors with decreased thermal conductivity between the sectors is proposed.

In chapter 3, we study frictional running-in. Running-in is a transient period on the onset of the frictional sliding, in which friction and wear decrease to their stationary values. In this research, running-in is interpreted as friction-induced self-organization process. We introduce a theoretical model of running-in and investigate rough profile evolution assuming that its kinetics is driven by two opposite processes or events, i.e., smoothening which is typical for the deformation-driven friction and wear, and roughening which is typical for the adhesion-driven friction and wear. To validate our modeling results, we examine experimentally running-in in ultrahigh vacuum friction tests for WC pin versus Cu substrate. We propose to calculate the Shannon entropy of a rough profile and to use it as a simple test for self-organization. We observe, theoretically and experimentally, how Shannon entropy as a characteristic of a rough surface profile changes during running-in, and quantifies the degree of orderliness of the self-organized system.

In chapter 4, we investigate the possibility of the so-called Turing-type pattern formation during friction. Turing or reaction-diffusion systems describe variations of spatial concentrations of chemical components with time due to local chemical reactions coupled with diffusion. During friction, the patterns can form at the sliding interface due to the mass transfer (diffusion), heat transfer, various tribochemical reactions, and wear. We present a mathematical model, and solve the governing equations by using a finite-difference method. The results demonstrate a possibility of such pattern-formation. We also discuss existing experimental data that suggest that tribofilms can form in-situ at the frictional interface due to a variety of friction-induced chemical reactions (oxidation, the selective transfer of Cu ions, etc.).

In chapter 5, we investigate how interfacial patterns including propagating trains of stick and slip zones form due to dynamic sliding instabilities. These can be categorized as self-organized patterns. We treat stick and slip as two phases at the interface, and study the effects related to phase transitions. Our results show how interfacial patterns form, how the transition between stick and slip zones occurs, and which parameters affect them.

In chapter 6, we use Cellular Potts Model to study contact angle (CA) hysteresis as a measure of solid-liquid energy dissipation. We simulate CA hysteresis for a droplet over the tilted patterned surface, and a bubble placed under the surface immersed in liquid. We discuss the dependency of CA hysteresis on the surface structure and other parameters. This analysis allows decoupling of the 1D (pinning of the triple line) and 2D effects (adhesion hysteresis in the contact area) and obtain new insights on the nature of CA hysteresis.

To summarize, we examine different cases in frictional interface and observe similar trends. We investigate and discus how these trends could be beneficial in design, synthesis and characterization of different materials and tribosystems. Furthermore, we describe how to utilize fundamental concepts for specific engineering applications. Finally, the main theme of this research is to find new applications of concept of self-organization to tribology and the role played by different physical and chemical interactions in modifying and controlling friction and wear.