Tribologists at OELCHECK

Year of publication: 2023

OELCHECK tribologists evaluate and report on the results of their lubricant and operating fluid analyses. But what is a tribologist, exactly? And what specific knowledge do OELCHECK tribologists need to have to do their job?


The multidisciplinary science of tribology – known as lubrication technology until 1970 – is a branch of mechanical engineering in which everything revolves around friction, wear and lubrication. As such, OELCHECK tribologists and lubrication technicians not only have extensive specialist knowledge of the materials used to build machines and engines, but they also understand the relationships of lubricants from a physics and chemistry perspective. As builders of machines, they are also familiar with a wide range of production processes and the systems used, as well as their special operating conditions.

The term ’tribology’ is derived from the Greek and means ’knowledge of friction’. Lubricants are used to reduce friction and the resulting wear. However, lubricants play more roles than simply protecting the contact surfaces and ensuring they are as low-friction and wear-resistant as possible. Friction, wear and lubrication are inseparably linked. Based on their experience in practice, the Egyptians used water, animal fats and olive oil as lubricants when building the pyramids. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is regarded as the founder of modern tribology and defined the laws of dry friction – and therefore the laws of friction.

Tribology – Now more important than ever

Far too little is known about the important role that tribology plays today in the fight against wasting energy and therefore against global warming. To move mechanical components in machines and engines, the friction between them must be removed using energy. Friction – and therefore energy consumption and the heating of components and oil – is already reduced through improved roughness of the paired surfaces, lower viscosity and optimised additives in modern lubricants. However, their full potential is far from being realised. Around a fifth of the world’s total energy consumption is still used to overcome friction so components can run smoothly.

Finding ways to minimise friction and wear through new technologies in tribology is therefore crucial in moving towards a greener and more sustainable world. The application of tribology in technology extends to all areas of the development, design, production and maintenance of mechanical motion systems in a whole host of industries and economic sectors. Tribology helps to lower energy consumption and temperatures, reducing the cost of maintaining and replacing lubricants and machine components. Tribology can therefore have a huge economic and commercial impact.

Conclusion: Tribology earns its place in the climate change discussion and is fascinating from a scientific perspective. It’s a particularly exciting time to be an OELCHECK tribologist!

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