Thermoelastic phenomena in lubricated face type seals are analyzed for possible instabilities which may lead to large surface deformations and seal failure. Thresholds of such instabilities are found where a small, steadily moving, surface disturbance will neither grow nor decay. For a good thermal conductor sliding on a good insulator, several such thresholds exist. Only one, however, falls within a reasonable operating range, the critical sliding speed being
$Ucrit=hκ¯KMμαM$
where h¯ is the nominal film-thickness, κ the wave number of the disturbance, KM the thermal conductivity of the conductor and αM its coefficient of thermal expansion, and μ the viscosity of the oil. Expressions are given for the approximate limits of h¯ within which such a threshold lies. Finally, it is shown that, as expected, a disturbance will grow when U > Ucrit and decay when U < Ucrit.
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