Further Understanding of Rolling Contact Fatigue in Rolling Bearings

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering & the Environment


Rolling element bearings have been widely used in automotive, industrial, marine, and aerospace applications. Modern rolling bearings have extremely long lives and typically fail through rolling contact fatigue (RCF) mechanisms due to material failure caused by the application of repeated cyclic stresses to a small volume of material.

Rolling contact fatigue can manifest by the formation of microstructural damage such as dark etching regions (DERs) and white etching bands (WEBs) under medium to high contact pressures and high rolling cycles. Many studies have been conducted to investigate the features in DERs and WEBs as well as their formation mechanisms over the past few decades. However it is still unclear how the operating conditions and material properties are related to the rate of failure due to DER and WEB as well as causes of the specific angles seen in WEBs.

This project aims to further understand rolling contact fatigue especially the formation mechanisms and drivers of DER and WEBs by forensic analysis of material degradation processes under RCF conditions.

The successful candidate will work closely with the Tribology Centre (nCATS) and the engineering materials group within the University as well as the Schaeffler Group in Germany.

Applicants with strong mechanical engineering (tribology, materials, lubrication, etc.) background are welcome to apply for the studentship or get in touch to find more details about this research project.


10 25 50

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509747/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1984117 Studentship EP/N509747/1 01/01/2018 30/06/2021 Mostafa El Laithy
Description Microstructural alterations known as dark etching regions (DER) and white etching bands (WEBs) developing in the subsurface of bearings are investigated in this project. In this project the initiation and growth pattern of the features throughout the bearing life and their 3D structure is characterized and modelled to develop a better understanding on how these features form and evolve during bearing operation. Various tests have also shown these microstructural alterations act as weak points in the material leading to bearing failure. Hence by analysing the growth of the features throughout the bearing life, a better analysis of the bearing material response can better predict the bearing failure.

Investigating the micro and nano structures has also been conducted as part of a mechanistic study to better understand how these features develop through elemental redistribution and deformation in the microstructure and hence what material properties need to be modified to limit the formation of DER and WEBs during bearing operation.
Exploitation Route modelling of the DER and WEBs from this project could be incorporated into existing bearing life models to better predict the bearing life for industries. While systematic experimentation could help examine how each bearing operating condition impacts the initiation and growth of the features to develop a further understanding on the formation of DER and WEBs.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Transport