Calibration of the ultrasonic lubricant-film thickness measurement technique

Jie Zhang*, Bruce W. Drinkwater, Rob S. Dwyer-Joyce

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


This paper describes an experimental apparatus and procedure for the calibration of the ultrasonic lubricant-film thickness measurement technique. It also presents a study of the accuracy of the technique. The calibration apparatus is demonstrated on a three layer steel-mineral oil-steel system. This was chosen to be representative of a typical bearing system which is the industrial application of the technique. In such bearing systems the lubricant-film thickness typically ranges from 0.1 to 100 νm. The calibration apparatus uses a high precision piezoelectric displacement translator to controllably displace one of the steel surfaces relative to the other and hence alter the lubricant-film thickness by a known amount. Through-thickness resonant frequency measurements are then used to accurately measure a thick lubricant film (h > 10 νm). These resonant frequency measurements form the starting point of the calibration. The displacement translator is then used to reduce the lubricant-film thickness into the, more practically interesting, low micron range. In this range the amplitude of the measured reflection coefficient is used via a spring interface model to calculate the lubricant-film thickness. Issues of ultrasonic beam alignment and frequency of operation are discussed. A detailed study of the effect of reflection-coefficient errors on the resultant thickness measurement is presented. Practical guidelines for use of the calibration are then defined and calibration is demonstrated experimentally over the range 0.5-1.3 νm. © 2005 IOP Publishing Ltd.

Translated title of the contributionCalibration of the ultrasonic lubricant film thickness measurement technique
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1784-1791
Number of pages8
JournalMeasurement Science and Technology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2005

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Institute of Physics


  • Lubricant film
  • Spring mode
  • Thickness measurement
  • Ultrasound


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