Tribotronics for Active Mechanosensation and Self‐Powered Microsystems - Zhang - 2019 - Advanced Functional Materials - Wiley Online Library

Credit: This article is the summary of a review titled ‘Tribotronics – Towards active tribology’ by Sergei Glavatskih, in Tribology international [1].


The importance of novel approaches to solving the mechanical and tribological aspects of any machinery is needed to enhance its efficiency. The ignorance of these changes in the designing approach could cause a significant slowdown in technological and industrial development. Tribotronics is the active tribology approach that is based on adaptive performance in controlling the system loss outputs by implementing smart machine concepts. There is a need to recognize this system output loss through various tribological losses such as friction and wear thereby changing the design accordingly to reduce those losses. This change could significantly help in accelerating the rate of technical progress. The changes using Tribotronics can be made in various machines and mechanisms by integrating them into the design stage which results in flexible products that are more efficient and reliable.

Tribotronics for Active Mechanosensation and Self‐Powered Microsystems -  Zhang - 2019 - Advanced Functional Materials - Wiley Online Library

Fig-1 Tribotronics and its fields [2]

Need for change

There are various aspects of tribology such as friction and wear which affects the functionality, reliability, and efficiency of the machinery. Considering these aspects while designing the products helps in lowering the loss output. Friction in many cases leads to loss of energy thereby decreasing the efficiency of the machinery. On the other hand, wear decreases the machine’s service life and causes its failure. Lubrication is one of the solutions to reduce friction and avoid wear thus it helps in decreasing the damage term. Improving these tribological aspects helps in decreasing energy consumption which helps in reducing pollution and protecting the environment. Further tribology-based designs could also help in reducing the weights of the machinery by not affecting their performance. The current tribological systems involve passive which cannot be controlled online, however implanting the Tribotronics into the system can help in controlling the geometry, material, and oil properties of the system. This helps in increasing the sensitivity of the operating system by controlling the required component by ore determining the conditions.


Designing using Tribotronics

This system includes mainly four components which are a tribological system, sensors, a controlling unit, and actuators. The role of the tribological system is where the mechanical action or the mechanism takes place. This is the system where all the physical parameters such as temperature, pressure, friction, vibration, oil properties, and other important parameters are controlled. These signals are controlled using the sensors which maintain the closed loop between the tribological system and the controlling unit to maintain the required conditions at the tribological system to reduce the output loss. The further controlling unit is controlled in real-time by various algorithms which are designed to calculate the required conditions in the tribological system by getting the output from sensors and maintaining the required condition using the actuators which is linked from the control unit to the tribological system. Thus, this system is a self-adjusting system that allows the online tuning to give the best performance from the tribological system. This is schematically shown in Fig- 2.

Fig-2 Tribotronics system and its elements [1]

Implementing Tribotronics

There are various challenges in implementing Tribotronics in active tribological platforms this includes the type of sensors used and their efficiency. The control unit and its capacity to recognize and adjust the change in the tribological system and the actuators which helps in implementing the changes made by the control system. These are crucial in a practical unit that involves various small parameters that need to be considered in order to avoid losses. For example, in cases of nonconformal contacts, it requires small sensors in comparison to conformal contacts. Thus, designing those small sensors is a challenging task. Further, the controlling system should have a better decision-making ability to give a fast response to the change in the tribological system. The actuators are another crucial component that needs to be selected for implanting the changes suggested by the control unit.

Challenges of Tribotronics

The challenges of this field include the person involved in designing the setup for ensuring the system’s ability to reduce output losses. This should be integrated by the person who has the knowledge of tribology along with mechatronics which could help in considering both aspects and designing a stable system. Models should be developed to represent the tribological system which should be accurate enough to describe the system’s dynamic response to changes in input parameters. This should further be supported by the software which must respond to the required changes within a certain time duration. The manufacturing of all the sensors and actuators along with the suitable controlling unit is a crucial challenging task in this field.



[1] Glavatskih, S. and Höglund, E., 2008. Tribotronics—towards active tribology. Tribology international41(9-10), pp.934-939.

[2] Zhang, C., Bu, T., Zhao, J., Liu, G., Yang, H. and Wang, Z.L., 2019. Tribotronics for active mechanosensation and self‐powered microsystems. Advanced Functional Materials29(41), p.1808114.


I am currently working as a Postgraduate Researcher at the University of Leeds, where I am actively involved in research activities. Prior to this, I successfully completed my master's degree through the renowned Erasmus Mundus joint program, specializing in Tribology and Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from VTU in Belgaum, India. Further I handle the social media pages for Tribonet and I have my youtube channel Tribo Geek.

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