The statistical analysis of the real area of contact proposed by Greenwood and Williamson is revisited. General and simplified equations for the mean asperity real area of contact, number of contacts, total real area of contact, and mean real pressure as a function of apparent pressure for the case of elastic junctions are presented. The critical value of the mean asperity pressure at which plastic flow starts when a polymer contacts a hard material is derived. Based on this, conditions of elastic and plastic junctions for polymers are defined by a “polymer” plasticity index, Ψp which depends on the complex modulus, Poisson’s ratio, yield strength, and surface topography. Calculations show that most dynamic contacts that occur in a computer-magnetic tape are elastic, and the predictions are supported by experimental evidence. Tape wear in computer applications is small and decreases Ψp by less than 10 percent. The theory presented here can also be applied to rigid and floppy disks.

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