The piston compression ring-cylinder liner contact experiences a transient regime of lubrication. This comprises hydrodynamic, mixed (partial) or boundary interactions. The regime of lubrication is influenced by contact kinematics, loading, mechanical and topographical properties of the bounding solid surfaces, as well as lubricant rheology and its supply to feed the conjunction. Ideally, a sufficient volume of lubricant would exist at the conjunctional inlet, which acts as a meniscus, from which a film of lubricant is entrained into the contact area. However, often there is an insufficient volume at the inlet to the contact or unfavourable kinematic conditions exist, such as at the dead centre reversals in the piston system. Such conditions are generally regarded as the underlying reasons for mixed or boundary regimes of lubrication. Whilst, these are the main reasons for failure to form a coherent lubricant film at dead centre reversals, poor hydrodynamic lubrication can also occur elsewhere in the piston cycle due to the lack of an inlet meniscus. This may be as the result of poor ring-bore conformability, where a meniscus cannot be formed in an increasing clearance space. Numerical analyses reported in open literature often assume an idealised fully flooded or drowned inlet. Other analyses assume starved inlet boundaries, usually based on a lubricant availability model, which itself is based on an assumed supply of lubricant on free surfaces ahead of the contact. It is, however, important to establish the limiting clearance space which would allow the lubricant to adhere to the adjacent boundary solids and, thus form a meniscus bridge. The current study is aimed at establishing inlet meniscus conditions. This would depend on the lubricant surface tension, affected by the free surface energy of liquid-vapour interface and the contact angle made between the lubricant and the bounding solids. It also depends on the solid surfaces, any coatings and their topography.
In general, the results indicate the dependence of the meniscus force on surface material and topography, through measurement of contact angles made by the various compression rings against the various cylinder liner surfaces, using an especially developed rig and in conjunction with a goniometer. Obviously, the measurements do not exactly replicate those existing in a fired engine. Nonetheless, this initial study provides a good insight into oil-surface combination in separating gaps, which is far more representative than the usually assumed idealised inlet conditions.