The effect of elevated temperature on the wear of stainless steel in contact with tungsten carbide

  • Stanley J. Petraitis

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The bearings in the air motors of modern jet aircraft engines must operate dry in hostile conditions at temperatures up to 500° C, where the thrust races in the actuators operate at temperatures up to 300° C. One of the few metallurgical combinations which can function efficiently under these conditions is martensitic stainless steel on tungsten carbide. The work described was initiated to isolate the wear mechanisms of two such steels in contact with tungsten carbide at temperatures up to 500° C.
Experiments were carried out on angular contact bearings similar to these used in service, where both rolling and sliding is present and also for pure sliding conditions using a pin-on-disc apparatus. Wear measurements of the bearings were obtained with wear rates, friction and surface temperatures from the pin-on-disc machine for a series of loads and speeds. Extensive X-ray diffraction analysis was carried out on the wear debris, with also S.E.M. analysis and hardness tests on the worn surfaces along with profilometry measurements of the disc. The oxidational parameters of the steel were obtained from measurements of oxide growth rates by ellipsometry.
Three distinct mechanisms of wear were established and the latter two were found to be present in both configurations. These involve an oxidational-abrasive mechanism at loads below 40 N with pin surface temperatures up to about 300 °C, with the mechanism changing to severe wear for higher loads. As the temperature increases a third wear mechanism appears due to transfer of relatively soft oxide films to the steel surface reducing the wear rate. Theoretical K factors were derived and compared with experimental values which were found to be in good agreement for the severe wear mechanism. The pin-on-disc experiments may be useful as a screening test for material selection, without the considerable cost of producing the angular contact bearings.
Date of AwardApr 1982
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJohn L Sullivan (Supervisor)


  • bearings
  • wear
  • surface analysis
  • K factors

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