Experimental study of the smoothing effect of a ceramic rolling element on a bearing raceway in contaminated lubrication

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-97
Journal / PublicationTribology Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007


The effects of steel and ceramic rolling elements on protrusions from the raceway of a bearing were experimentally investigated. Such protrusions, which are normally caused by solid contaminants in the lubricating oil, create stress concentrations and lead to a reduction in the rolling contact fatigue life of the bearing. To compare the over-rolling effects of steel and ceramic rollers, experiments with steel discs with artificial dents on the surfaces were performed using a modified twin-disc machine. The results show that ceramic rollers can reduce the height of the protruded edge of an artificial dent more than steel rollers, which means that they are more effective in smoothing a damaged surface. The stresses at the contact were calculated by finite element analysis based on the deformed profile of the dented surface. The reduction in the stress level due to the smoothing effect of ceramic rollers is greater than that of steel rollers. According to the Lundberg-Palmgren bearing fatigue model, that smoothing ensures a significantly longer rolling contact fatigue life for a bearing. To put the idea into practice, a rolling ball bearing with two of its nine steel balls replaced with silicon nitride balls (referred to as a "partial hybrid bearing") was run, together with a full steel bearing of the same model, on a bearing tester in a highly contaminated lubrication condition. The results show that the partial hybrid bearing suffers from less damage in terms of wear. The post-experiment examination of the damaged surface of the bearing raceway found that the surface of the partial hybrid bearing was smoother than that of the full steel bearing. This reveals the smoothing effect of the rolling ceramic element on the contaminant-damaged bearing surface. © 2007 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.

Research Area(s)

  • Ceramic rolling element, Contaminated lubrication, Dents, Hybrid bearing, Rolling element bearing