2021 Summer School: Tribology and Surfaces Interactions

23 – 27 August, 2021 Viège, Switzerland

Registration is now closed.

In many engineering situations, material surfaces are brought into contact and experience relative motion, i.e. they form a tribological system.

Mastering tribological phenomena (friction, lubrication and wear) is nowadays gaining special relevance due to concern for sustainable development. Indeed, improved consideration of tribological principles enables longer durability and reliability of devices, more savings of energy and resources and therefore more efficient use of materials, equipment or infrastructures.

This course is intended to give participants (graduates, researchers and industrial professionals) a solid background in tribology and surface interactions. It covers the fundamentals concepts of tribology including surfaces, contact mechanics, friction, lubrication and wear, the description of different techniques for multiscale wear analysis (experimental and computational) and application examples illustrating how to use the theoretical background in engineering practice. At the end of the course, participants will have the tools to identify and to approach tribological systems combined with appropriate material selection and surface design.


Bildungshaus St. Jodern, Viège, Switzerland

Who should attend

The course is open to participants with basic backgrounds in material science and mechanics.

This course may be validated for 2 ECTS credits in the doctoral program of EPFL and ETH Zurich after acceptance by the corresponding institution. In this case, full attendance and a final examination after the end of the course on the final day is required. Please contact Carey Sargent for details.


Registration is now closed.


Dr. Tobias Brink (Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung), Dr. Rowena Crockett (Empa), Dr. Julien Fontaine (Ecole Centrale de Lyon), Dr. Mousab Hadad (Nova Werke), Dr. Anna Igual (EPFL), Dr. Stefano MIschler (EPFL), Dr. Guilhem Mollon (INSA Lyon), Dr. Nick Randall (Alemnis AG), Dr. Claude Rieker (Zimmer Biomet), Prof. Aurelien Saulot (INSA Lyon), Prof. Jürg Schiffmann (EPFL)


The course is set to cover the topics listed below. Practical work on a local glacier will also form an integral part of the course. Students will have to interpret geological features in terms of tribological events, summarizing their on-site (Aletsch, Saas Fee, Zermatt) observations and presenting the outcome.

Tribology system and main concepts

System description: materials, mechanics/ Concepts of friction, lubrication, wear

Surfaces and friction

Topography, surface energy, atomic structure, and chemical properties of surfaces, tribochemistry, surface modifications

From contact mechanics to wear

2D and 3D problem (loads and stresses): Hertz, sliding, yielding

3D problem (loads and stresses) considering roughness, non-linear behaviour of materials. BEM, FEM. Hertz/Goodman formalism for coatings. Role of the interface. Archard, Wear particle generation

Wear of systems

Wear as mass flow (3rd body concept), systemic influence on wear, 3rd body rheology, wear of materials


Regimes: Hydrodynamic lubrication and EHL / Boundary and solid lubrication

Experimental techniques for tribology

Laboratory, bench, real scale wear experiments. Wear quantification. Characterization of wear mechanisms.

Tribology of materials

Response of different classes of materials to tribological loading. Tribocorrosion.

Surface treatments for tribology

Overview on tribological coatings and surface treatments. Application criteria.

Rock tribology

Rock mechanics and friction. Third bodies. Rock sliding. Simulation.

Introduction to rock tectonics

Large scale tribological phenomena

Field practice

Students will interpret rock features in terms of tribological events. They will summarize their on-site (Aletsch, Saas Fee, Zermatt) observations and present the outcome.

Case Study 1: Bearings
Case Study 2: Biotribology

Fees for the week

PhD students from EPFL, ETHZ, PSI, Empa and CSEM: CHF1,000.-

Other academic participants: CHF 1,300.-

All other participants: CHF 2,000.-