The measurement of lubricant film thickness under elastohydrodynamic (EHL) contact conditions is well established and a variety of experimental techniques have been used, the most accurate and widely used of which is optical interferometry. This lends itself particularly well to the study of the all-important mixed and boundary regimes, since the films are of the same order of magnitude as the wavelength of light. The vast majority of these studies have been made under pure rolling conditions, since the necessary optical coatings preclude the use of high sliding speeds within the critical thin fluid film regime. These conditions are however precisely those required to activate ZDDPs and other antiwear additives, making accurate ‘in situ’ optical studies of additive film build-up difficult. A modification to the existing MTM (mini-traction machine) has allowed steel on steel contacts to be run under high sliding speed conditions, thereby allowing antiwear additive reactions to occur. By optically measuring the film thickness of these reaction films as they form, in tandem with friction measurements, a full picture of both friction and reaction film build-up can be made. Using a novel LED (light emitting diode) light source and accurate calibration procedures, the film thickness of the whole contact area can be measured down to a few nanometres. This paper presents a study of the behaviour of standard additive combinations under realistic operating conditions and describes the rig in detail.

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