An experiment is conducted to investigate the role of surface roughness on the coefficient of friction and contact resistance of sliding electrical contacts. A hemispherical pin is sliding along both smooth and rough 2-meter rail surface. Tests are performed at both low and moderate sliding speed and for a range of electrical current densities, ranging from 0 to about 12 GA/m2. It was found that surface roughness had a significant influence on the coefficient of friction, with the smoother surfaces exhibiting higher coefficients of friction. Contact resistance, on the other hand, did not show as strong an effect of surface roughness, except for a few parameter combinations. At the higher current densities studied (>10 GA/m2), it was found that the contact resistance values tended to be on the order of 1 mΩ, independent of load, speed and roughness. This convergence may be due to presence of liquid metal film at the interface, which established ideal electrical contact.

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