The reflection of ultrasound can be used to determine oil film thickness from the stiffness of the separating film. However, boundary or mixed film lubrication is a common occurrence in elastohydrodynamic lubricated (EHL) contacts, as the nominal thickness of the separating film approaches the surface asperity height. In this paper an ultrasonic investigation was carried out on the interface between a steel ball sliding on a flat disc as the speed was reduced into the boundary regime. The ultrasonic reflection then depends on the stiffness of the interface that now consists of an oil layer and asperity contacts. To distinguish the stiffness contribution from asperity contact and oil layer, a mixed lubrication model for circular contacts was established. This predicted the lubricant film thickness and proportions of solid and liquid mediated contact. The total stiffness predicted by theoretical models showed a good agreement with experimental measurement for kinematic cases. The model can then be used to extract the proportion of real area of contact, and the oil film thickness, from ultrasonic results.

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