Soft lubrication: The elastohydrodynamics of nonconforming and conforming contacts
Physics of Fluids
We study the lubrication of fluid-immersed soft interfaces and show that elastic deformation couples tangential and normal forces and thus generates lift. We consider materials that deform easily, due to either geometry (e.g. a shell) or constitutive properties (e.g. a gel or a rubber), so that the effects of pressure and temperature on the fluid properties may be neglected. Four different system geometries are considered: a rigid cylinder moving parallel to a soft layer coating a rigid
... ing a rigid substrate; a soft cylinder moving parallel to a rigid substrate; a cylindrical shell moving parallel to a rigid substrate; and finally a cylindrical conforming journal bearing coated with a thin soft layer. In addition, for the particular case of a soft layer coating a rigid substrate we consider both elastic and poroelastic material responses. For all these cases we find the same generic behavior: there is an optimal combination of geometric and material parameters that maximizes the dimensionless normal force as a function of the softness parameter = hydrodynamic pressure/elastic stiffness = surface deflection/gap thickness which characterizes the fluid-induced deformation of the interface. The corresponding cases for a spherical slider are treated using scaling concepts.