Green Tribology

Energy consumption in transportation
Number of transportation vehicles worldwide and their global annual energy consumption and energy intensity (energy consumption per tonne weight transported and kilometre), taken from reference article [1]

Tribology is Integral to Global Energy Consumption, Costs and Emissions

Three principle industries in today’s society are transportation, power generation, and manufacturing. All three industries involve machines of all types, with moving parts subject to friction and wear, and therefore rely on tribology to help them gain the greatest profit.

Peter Jost coined the term tribology in 1966 in a report detailing the cost of friction, wear, and corrosion in the British economy. In his report Peter Jost discussed how implementing new and more advanced tribological technologies could save the UK millions of pounds per year.

Since the Peter Jost report, the understanding and knowledge regarding tribological technologies has grown by leaps and bounds. New materials, lubricants, and designs for reducing wear due to corrosion and friction are created on a regular basis. This knowledge has gained widespread acceptance across industries in an attempt to reduce wear, decrease costs, and ultimately improve profits.

However, we are facing new challenges today in regards to global climate change. As the world population increases, so does the demand for energy. Unfortunately, fossil fuels are still widely used and they have the devastating effect of increasing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into our environment on a daily basis. Tribology could conceivably offer a great deal of valuable help in the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The term green tribology has become part of the vocabulary now. Green tribology is a branch of tribology that relates specifically to maintaining an ecological balance of any potential environmental and biological impacts of the interactions between various surfaces that can occur between materials. Green tribology works to ensure that any friction and wear occurring between materials happens in an environmentally friendly manner. Researchers in the green tribology field are also looking at wind-power turbines, solar panels and tidal turbine. They are focusing on being more environmentally friendly and sustainable in the future.

Green tribology has three basic principles aimed at ensuring limited impact on the environment and human health. These three principles are biomimetics (imitating the models, systems, and elements of nature in order to solve complex human problems) and self-lubricating materials and surfaces, biodegradable and environmentally friendly lubrications, and renewable and/or sustainable sources of energy.

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Specifically, green tribology looks at minimizing friction, minimizing wear, reducing and/or eliminating lubrication, creating natural lubrication, maintaining green engineering and chemistry principles, and real-time monitoring of tribology systems.

Green tribology is fairly new concept; however, it is already playing an important role in ensuring that all industrial systems are able to function in an environmentally friendly way. Additionally, researchers are looking at methods for integrating green tribology and developing systems that are completely sustainable in terms of engineered design and energy production.

Kenneth Holmberg and Ali Erdemir discuss the increasing importance of green tribology in their recent article “Influence of Tribology on Global Energy Consumption, Costs, and Emissions”. Green tribology is garnering a great deal of attention to the high costs related to tribological contacts. Studies show that approximately 23% of today’s global total energy consumption is a result of inefficient performance of the tribological contacts. Of that total, approximately 20% of the energy is used to deal with friction issues and the remaining 3% is to manufacture replacements for parts worn down to due wear and other wear-related failures.

Researchers estimate that by taking advantage of the new green tribological advances in terms of new surfaces, materials, and lubrication technologies that the world’s energy losses due to friction and wear could by reduced by up to 18% in the next 8 years and up to 40% in the next 15 years. The energy savings would be greatest in the areas of transportation and power generation. An added advantage of green tribological features is the significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and economical costs.

More details: “Influence of Tribology on Global Energy Consumption, Costs, and Emissions”,, Kenneth Holmberg and Ali Erdemir 16


[1]. “Influence of Tribology on Global Energy Consumption, Costs, and Emissions”,, Kenneth Holmberg and Ali Erdemir

Founder of TriboNet, Editor, PhD (Tribology), Tribology Scientist at ASML, The Netherlands. Expertise in lubrication, friction, wear and contact mechanics with emphasis on modeling. Creator of Tribology Simulator.

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