Viscosity Measurement in a Lubricant Film Using an Ultrasonically Resonating Matching Layer

Research paper by M. Schirru, R. Mills, R. Dwyer-Joyce, O. Smith, M. Sutton

Indexed on: 14 Nov '15Published on: 14 Nov '15Published in: Tribology Letters


A novel ultrasonic viscometer intended for in-situ applications in lubricated components is presented. The concept is based on the reflection of a shear wave at a solid–liquid boundary that depends on the viscosity of the liquid and the acoustic properties of the solid. Very little ultrasound energy can propagate into the oil at a metal–oil interface because the acoustic mismatch is great, and this leads to large measurement errors. The method described in this paper overcomes this limitation by placing a thin intermediate matching layer between the metal and the lubricant. Results obtained with this technique are in excellent agreement with expected values from conventional viscometers when Newtonian mineral oils are analysed. When complex non-Newtonian mixtures are tested, the viscosity measurement is frequency dependent. At high ultrasonic frequencies, over 1 MHz, it is possible to shear only the base oil, while to obtain the viscosity of the mixture it is necessary to choose a lower excitation frequency to match the dispersed polymer relaxation time.