Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Sheng Li, Ph.D. (Advisor); Harok Bae, Ph.D. (Committee Member); Ahsan Mian , Ph.D. (Committee Member)

Degree Name

Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (MSME)


Lubrication is provided to the gear trains in automotive and aerospace transmission systems to prevent mechanical contact through the formation of a full lubricant film, which in turn removes heat generated at the gear contact surfaces. When debris blocks the inlet nozzle, the flow of lubricant is restricted and mechanical components experience lubrication starvation. Under starved lubrication the temperatures of the contact surfaces become elevated which can lead to the formation of a weld between them, a catastrophic failure mode called scuffing. For spur gears, the occurrence of scuffing is due to high sliding in the vicinity of the root or tip, where the shear thinning effect decreases the lubrication film thickness. This lubricant depletion increases the contact pressure and frictional heat flux beyond a critical limit, resulting in weld formation. The weld is immediately torn apart by the continuous relative motion of the components, causing extreme damage to the tooth surfaces. The objective of this study is to characterize the tribological behavior of high sliding gear contacts under starved lubrication. This is achieved through numerical flow simulations which utilize a generalized Reynolds equation with a non-Newtonian flow coefficient, and incorporate the dependence of lubricant viscosity on pressure and temperature. In order to study the effects of lubrication starvation a film fraction parameter is used in the Reynolds equation, removing the need for measured or assumed inlet lubrication geometry. This work presents a parametric study of engineering surface profiles under different operating conditions to show an asymptotic relationship between flash temperature and the severity of the lubrication starvation, supported by an analysis of pressure, film fraction parameter, friction coefficient, and power loss. The results of these investigations justify further numerical and experimental studies of scuffing failure for gear contacts.

Page Count


Department or Program

Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering

Year Degree Awarded