Modelling tribology of slider and disk in a computer hard drive system

  • Jill Collins

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Issues of wear and tribology are increasingly important in computer hard drives as slider flying heights are becoming lower and disk protective coatings thinner to minimise spacing loss and allow higher areal density. Friction, stiction and wear between the slider and disk in a hard drive were studied using Accelerated Friction Test (AFT) apparatus.
Contact Start Stop (CSS) and constant speed drag tests were performed using commercial rigid disks and two different air bearing slider types.
Friction and stiction were captured during testing by a set of strain gauges. System parameters were varied to investigate their effect on tribology at the head/disk interface. Chosen parameters were disk spinning velocity, slider fly height, temperature, humidity and intercycle pause. The effect of different disk texturing methods was also studied. Models were proposed to explain the influence of these parameters on tribology.
Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) were used to study head and disk topography at various test stages and to provide physical parameters to verify the models. X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) was employed to identify surface composition and determine if any chemical changes had occurred as a result of testing.
The parameters most likely to influence the interface were identified for both CSS and drag testing. Neural Network modelling was used to substantiate results.
Topographical AFM scans of disk and slider were exported numerically to file and explored extensively. Techniques were developed which improved line and area analysis. A method for detecting surface contacts was also deduced, results supported and explained observed AFT behaviour.
Finally surfaces were computer generated to simulate real disk scans, this allowed contact analysis of many types of surface to be performed. Conclusions were drawn about what disk characteristics most affected contacts and hence friction, stiction and wear.
Date of AwardSept 2001
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJohn L Sullivan (Supervisor)


  • wear
  • tribology
  • computer hard drives
  • disk protective coatings
  • Accelerated Friction Test
  • Atomic Force Microscopy
  • Scanning Electron
  • X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy

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