Tribology: Friction, Wear, and Lubrication


The study of friction, wear, and lubrication is of enormous practical importance, because the function of many mechanical, electromechanical, and biological systems depends on the appropriate friction and wear values. In recent decades, this field, termed tribology, has received increasing attention as it has become evident that the wastage of resources resulting from high friction and wear is greater than 6% of the Gross National Product. The potential savings offered by improved tribological knowledge are immense.

Tribology flyer
Download the 2017 course flyer (pdf)

However, most engineers do not have a sufficient background in this area. For example, an undergraduate engineering student receives perhaps an hour of instruction in tribology. Moreover, most reference works of tribology provide little guidance to solving real-world problems.

This program presents current insights into tribology, focusing on such fundamental concepts as surface energy, elastic and elastoplastic deformation, micro-fracture, and surface interactions at the micro- and nano-scale. Special consideration is given to the application of fundamental knowledge to control friction and wear behavior through lubrication and the selection of materials and coatings in practical situations. Furthermore, modern experimental methods are discussed and several case studies are used to illustrate how fundamental tribology knowledge can be applied in the design of tribological components and systems.

Lead Instructor(s): 

Nannaji Saka
Nam Pyo Suh



Course Length: 

5 Days

Course Fee: 





  • Closed

It is highly recommended that you apply for a course at least 6-8 weeks before the start date to guarantee there will be space available. After that date you may be placed on a waitlist. Courses with low enrollment may be cancelled up to 4 weeks before start date if sufficient enrollments are not met. If you are able to access the online application form, then registration for that particular course is still open.

This course has limited enrollment. Apply early to guarantee your spot.

Participant Takeaways: 

  • Describing surface topography, physico-chemical aspects of solid surfaces, and surface interactions
  • Analyzing the mechanics of solid elastic and elastoplastic contacts
  • Recognizing the laws of friction, mechanisms of friction, friction space, stiction, stick slip, and surface temperature
  • Appreciating the various modes of wear: adhesive, delamination, fretting, abrasive, erosive, corrosive, oxidational (mild and severe), melt, and the wear-mechanism maps
  • Identifying types of lubrication: boundary, solid-film, hydrodynamic, and hydrostatic lubrication
  • Examining applications/case studies: sliding contacts, rolling contacts, bearing design, coating selection, and lubrication
  • Exploring the design of tribological surfaces and how to troubleshoot tribology problems
  • Surveying tribological testing devices and testing design
  • Recognizing the seminal role that tribology plays in the satisfactory functioning of mechanical, electrical, electromechanical, and biological systems
  • Appreciating of the importance of tribology in minimizing energy consumption, extending product life, and protecting the environment
  • Understanding the laws, mechanisms, and models of friction, wear, and lubrication — spanning nano, micro, meso, and macroscales
  • Appreciating that tribological properties are the properties of the system as a whole, not just of the individual
  • Understanding the methodologies of design and troubleshooting tribological systems
  • Understanding the protocols and procedures of accelerated and long-term tribological testing

Who Should Attend: 

Who should attend:

The program is intended for two kinds of participants: those who are active or intend to be active in research on some aspect of tribology, and those who have encountered practical friction and wear problems and wish to learn novel methods of solving them.

The course requires at least a bachelor's degree in engineering or physical sciences, including basic courses in mathematics, applied mechanics, materials science, physics, and chemistry. Some lectures introduce advanced concepts in these areas and in physical chemistry and thermodynamics. These will be reviewed where necessary to provide the required background. Industrial experience is preferred.

Computer Requirements:

Laptops or tablets for are required for this course. Each participant receives digital and hard copies of the course lectures.

Program Outline: 

Overview and preliminaries
Course Overview, Surface Topography, Physico-Chemical Aspects of Solid Surfaces, Surface Interactions

Mechanics of solid contacts
Elastic Contacts, Elastoplastic Contacts, Fracture

Laws of Friction, Mechanisms of Friction, Friction Space, Stiction, Stick Slip, Surface Temperature

Adhesive Wear, Delamination Wear, Fretting Wear, Abrasive Wear, Erosive Wear, Corrosive Wear, Mild and Severe Oxidational Wear, Melt Wear, Wear-Mechanism Maps

Boundary Lubrication, Solid-Film Lubrication, Mixed Lubrication, Hydrodynamic Lubrication, Hydrostatic Lubrication

Nanoscale tribology
Interatomic Interactions, Atomic Force Microscope (AFM), Challenges of Tribological Testing at Small Scales

Tribological testing
Common Geometries, Instrumentation and Methods Used for Testing, Influences of Test Parameters

Applications/Case Studies
Sliding Contacts, Rolling Contacts, Bearing Design, Coating Selection. Optional topics include: Electric Contacts, Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS), Design of Tribological Surfaces, and Troubleshooting.

Course Schedule: 

View 2017 Course Schedule (pdf)

Class runs 8:30 am - 5:00 pm every day except Friday when it ends at noon, followed by a farewell lunch.

Special events include: a networking reception Monday evening; a program dinner for course participants, their families, and faculty on Wednesday night; and a farewell lunch on Friday at noon. Evening activities and the lunch are included in tuition.

Participants’ Comments: 


“A good practical overview of tribology. I didn't expect it to be as practical / real-world / valuable as it was. I expected it to be "in-the-clouds" mysterious as other triobologists I have come across have acted. I like the courage of the presenters defining what is known, what is estimated, and what is unknown. It has improved my view of tribology's legitimacy.”


“I learned a lot and realized that there is a lot more to learn and study about tribology. I came back with a lot of ideas for the company and my testing design.”


“An excellent overview of Tribology. A chance to ask questions and get answers on specific topics of interest. The ability to converse with industry professionals regarding very specific areas of knowledge.”


"Very effective. I came to the class with a problem I needed to start on without knowing where to begin. By day two of the class, I had a feasible idea and by day four I believe I have a solution to the problem. Now, I just need to prove my theory. My management will understand that this class was very valuable."


"Excellent program. Exceptional opportunity to learn from word-wide known tribologists."


"Not only learned theories of tribology, but also the way of solving engineering problems. The instructors delivered very nice and well prepared talks. I would recommend this class to any of my colleagues in the tribological area."


"As a metallurgist, the chosen subject matter was applicable. I will be directly applying what I learned and use the handouts and textbooks as references for years to come."


"This type of information and presentation is simply not available in the working world."


"The experience was extremely positive, mostly because Drs. Saka and Suh are very good instructors. They know how to extract the essence, how to structure, and how to make sense of the multitude of information from a complex field."


"Useful in understanding widely varying results obtained in practical wear applications and ways to avoid them."


"The top quality of the professors and lectures, the material, social events, overall organization and logistics were just outstanding!"


"The course was very good and well worth the cost and time to attend. The content was extensive and informative. The lecturers were impressive and highly knowledgeable in their fields. The social events (dinner and lunch) were superb and provided for wonderful personal and technical exchanges with the attendees and lecturers. I found the dialogue and questions in the classroom to be very interesting and engaging. The classroom accommodations were good and the refreshments provided were of good quality. The discussion of applications, case studies, and problem solving were of most interest."



This course takes place on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We can also offer this course for groups of employees at your location. Please complete the Custom Programs request form for further details.


Fundamentals: Core concepts, understandings, and tools (30%) 30
Latest Developments: Recent advances and future trends (30%) 30
Industry Applications: Linking theory and real-world (40%) 40

Delivery Methods: 

Lecture: Delivery of material in a lecture format (70%) 70
Discussion or Groupwork: Participatory learning (20%) 20
Labs: Demonstrations, experiments, simulations (10%) 10



Introductory: Appropriate for a general audience (20%) 20
Specialized: Assumes experience in practice area or field (30%) 30
Advanced: In-depth explorations at the graduate level (50%) 50