Duncan Dowson’s impact on industrial tribology

Taylor, Robert Ian orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-3132-8469 (2021) Duncan Dowson’s impact on industrial tribology. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part J: Journal of Engineering Tribology, 235 (12). pp. 2604-2611. ISSN 1350-6501

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1177/13506501211027024


Professor Duncan Dowson had close connections to industrial partners and sponsors throughout his academic career, and I believe he viewed industrial tribological challenges as problems that could usefully be solved by academia, and as a source of ideas (and funding) for new projects. Professor Dowson’s famous work on a numerical solution for the lubrication of an
elastohydrodynamic line contact, with Professor Higginson, was motivated by the need to better understand gear lubrication. These first calculations took 18 months to complete(!), and it was realized that for the theory to be of use to practicing engineers, simpler correlation functions fitted to numerical simulations would be much more convenient, and the Dowson-Higginson correlation functions for the prediction of elastohydrodynamic oil film thickness that were developed are still widely used today. Industrial partners such as Shell supplied high-pressure fluid properties required for the elastohydrodynamic calculations (such as the pressure coefficient of viscosity and the way in which lubricant density varies with pressure).
Professor Dowson also famously served on the Jost Committee, which quantified, for the first time, the financial impact of tribology, and highlighted that investments in good tribological practices would pay for themselves many times over. It should be remembered that in setting up the Jost Committee, the UK Government specifically asked the committee to investigate the state of lubrication education and research and to establish the requirements of industry in this regard. This paper also includes personal memories of the significant collaborations that I was involved with, as an industrial research scientist, with Leeds University from the mid 1990’s to around 2013, which predominantly focused on piston ring tribology. Also included is a discussion of the Leeds-Lyon Symposia on Tribology, of which I attended at least 10 of these meetings from 1994 to 2018.

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