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Vol.

46 (2003), 3, 383-390
TRIBOLOGY TRANSACTIONS

A Finite Element Based Elastic-Plastic Model for the

Contact of Rough Surfaces


*

LIOR KOGUT (Member, STLE) and IZHAK ETSION (Fellow, STLE)


Technion
Dept. of Mechanical Engineering
Haifa, 32000, Israel

An elastic-plastic model for contacting rough surfaces that is


based on accurate Finite Element Analysis (FEA) of an elasticplastic single asperity contact is presented. The plasticity index
is shown to be the main dimensionless parameter that affects the
contact of rough surfaces. Below = 0.6 the contact problem is
purely elastic and above = 8 it is mostly plastic. The mean real
contact pressure is found to be practically independent of the contact load, similarly to the material hardness in fully plastic contact. An elastic-plastic hardness in the form 0.41/ H can
therefore be used to relate the contact load and real area of contact. A comparison with the approximate CEB (Chang, Etsion,

Bogy) model shows identical results for pure elastic contacts having plasticity index values below 0.6 but substantial differences
for elastic-plastic contacts having plasticity index values above 1.
KEY WORDS
Contact Mechanics; Elastic-Plastic Contact; Rough Surfaces
INTRODUCTION
An accurate characterization of the contact between rough surfaces is important for analyzing many tribological problems.
These include sealing (21), friction (6), performance and life of
machine elements (22), and thermal (20) and electrical conductivity (15) to name a few. The high level of interest in this subject is
evident from the impressive number of works that were published
so far (see e.g. review papers by Bhushan, (3), Liu, et al., (18) and
Adams and Nosonovsky, (2)).

Scheduled for Presentation at the 58th Annual Meeting


in New York City
April 28-May 1, 2003
Final manuscript approved November 4, 2002
Review led by Robert Errichello

NOMENCLATURE

An
Ap
A
*
A
d
*
d
E
H
h
*
h
K
N
Nc
P
*
P
R
S
ys

s
*

c
c

= nominal contact area


= plastic real contact area
= real contact area
= dimensionless real contact area, A/An
= separation based on asperity heights
= dimensionless separation, d/
= Hertz elastic modulus
= hardness of the softer material
= separation based on surface heights
= dimensionless separation, h/
= hardness factor, 0.454 + 0.41
= total number of asperities
= number of contacting asperities
= contact load
= dimensionless contact load, P/AnH
= asperity radius of curvature
= dimensionless stiffness, P /h
*
*
=h -d

= height of an asperity measured from the mean of asperity


heights
= dimensionless height of an asperity, z/
= surface roughness parameter, R
= dimensionless distribution function of asperity heights
= area density of asperities
= Poissons ratio of the softer material
= standard deviation of surface heights
= standard deviation of asperity heights
= dimensionless interference
= critical interference at the inception of plastic deformation
= dimensionless critical interference, c/
= plasticity index, Eq. [5]

SUBSCRIPTS
c
= yielding inception
SUPERSCRIPTS

= single asperity

Currently Post Doctoral Fellow, Dept. of Mechanical Engineering,


University of California, Berkeley, CA

383

384

L. KOGUT AND I. ETSION

Fig. 1Contacting rough surfaces.

Several approaches exist in modeling contacting rough surfaces. However, it seems that the most convenient one is the probabilistic approach, which is based on incorporating the behavior of
a single asperity in a statistical model of multiple asperity contact.
The mathematical modeling of contacting rough surfaces according to this approach (10) consists of:
1. Replacing the two rough surfaces by a smooth surface in
contact with an equivalent rough surface.
2. Replacing asperities with simple geometrical shapes.
3. Assuming a probability distribution for the asperity parameters.
The first probabilistic model for the contact of rough surfaces
was presented in the pioneering work of Greenwood and
Williamson (11) (GW model). This classic model is based on the
Hertz solution for a single elastic spherical asperity (see, e.g.
Johnson, (13)) and, hence, is mainly suitable for pure elastic contacts. Some pure plastic contact models emerged from the work of
Abbott and Firestone (1) that relates the bearing area of a rough
surface to its geometrical intersection with a flat.
The models for either pure elastic or pure plastic contact of
rough surfaces overlook a wide intermediate range of interest
where elastic-plastic contact prevails. An attempt to bridge this
gap was made by Chang, et al. (5) (CEB model). In this model
each contacting asperity remains in elastic Hertzian contact until
a critical interference is reached, above which volume conservation of the asperity tip is imposed and a uniform average contact
pressure is assumed. This simplifying assumption introduces a
discontinuity in the contact load at the transition from elastic to
elastic-plastic contact and triggered several modifications to the
original model e.g. Evseev, et al. (9), Chang (4) and Zhao, et al.
(25). Unfortunately, all these modifications are based on mathematical, rather than physical, considerations to smooth the discontinuity in the CEB model.
The original CEB model, because of its simplicity, was extended to different contacting surface geometries, asperity shapes and
asperity height probability density functions, e.g. Kogut and
Etsion (16), Horng (12) and Yu and Polycarpou (24). However, all
these works do not provide a solution to the basic problem of lacking accuracy in the elastic-plastic contact regime. Such accurate
solution calls for the use of a Finite Element Method (FEM).
Kucharski, et al. (14) used FEM to solve elastic-plastic contact
of a single asperity and provided empirical proportional expressions for the contact load and the contact area. Although the

authors intended to describe elastic-plastic contact, their results


concentrated on the behavior of the asperity deep into the fully
plastic regime. More recently, Kogut and Etsion (17) presented an
accurate elastic-plastic finite element solution for the contact of a
deformable sphere pressed by a rigid flat. Their solution provides
convenient dimensionless expressions for the contact load and
contact area covering a large range from yielding inception to
fully plastic contact of the sphere. It also shows large differences
in comparison with the existing approximate elastic-plastic solutions like the CEB model and its subsequent modifications,
Evseev, et al. (9), Chang (4) and Zhao, et al. (25).
The more accurate FEM solution of Kogut and Etsion (17)
enables a revision of the CEB elastic-plastic model of contacting
rough surfaces (Chang, et al., (5)). The present paper offers such
a revision.
ANALYSIS
Figure 1 describes schematically the geometry of the contacting rough surfaces. The basic assumptions of the GW model
(Greenwood and Williamson, (11)) regarding the shape and statistical distribution of the asperities along with the transformation to
the more practical surface height distribution of the CEB model
(Chang, et al., (5)) are adopted in the present analysis. According
to these assumptions the rough surface is isotropic, asperities are
spherical near their summits with a uniform curvature and random
heights distribution, asperities are far apart and there is no interaction between them, and finally no bulk deformation occurs during contact. In Fig. 1 R is the uniform asperity radius of curvature,
z and d denote the asperity height and separation of the surfaces,
respectively, measured from the reference plane defined by the
mean of the original asperity heights. The separation h is measured from the reference plane defined by the mean of the original
surface heights. The standard deviations s and correspond to
the asperity and surface heights, respectively and are related by
(McCool, (19)):


s
=

3.717E 4
2

[1]

where is a surface roughness parameter defined as

= R
and is the area density of the asperities.
All length dimensions are normalized by and the dimension*
less values are denoted by . Hence, ys is the difference between
*
*
h and d and is given by (see Etsion and Amit, (8)):

1.5
ys = h d =
108

[2]

The total number of asperities is:


N = An
where An is the nominal contact area. The number of asperities in
contact is:

A Finite Element Based Elastic-Plastic Model for the Contact of Rough Surfaces


Nc = An
*

(z )dz

(z ) is the dimensionless asperity heights probability density function, assumed to be Gaussian

(z ) =
exp[ 0.5( )2 (z )2 ]

2 s
s
The dimensionless interference is defined as

= z d

[3]

and only asperities with positive dimensionless interference are in


contact.
The critical interference, c, that marks the transition from
elastic to elastic-plastic deformation is given by (see e.g. Chang,
et al., (5))

c = (

KH 2
) R
2E

[4]

where H is the hardness of the softer material and K, the hardness


coefficient, is related to the Poisson ratio of the softer material by
(see Chang, et al., (6)):

385

The integrals in Eqs. [6] and [7] are solved in parts for the different deformation regimes of the contacting asperities.
Kogut and Etsion (17) used FEM to solve the elastic-plastic
contact problem of a single asperity and found that the entire elastic-plastic regime extends over interference values in the range 1
/c < 110 with a distinct transition in the mean contact pressure at /c = 6. Up to the transition interference of /c = 6 a
plastic region develops below the contact interface while the
entire contact area is elastic. Above /c = 6 the contact area contains an inner elastic circular core that is surrounded by an external plastic annulus. This elastic core shrinks with increasing interference and finally disappears completely at /c = 68. From
there on the entire contact area is plastic but the mean contact
pressure continues to grow until it becomes constant and equal to
the hardness at /c = 110, marking the beginning of fully plastic
contact.
and P on in the elastic-plastic regime
The dependence of A
was presented by Kogut and Etsion (17) in a dimensionless form
through normalizing the relevant parameters by their critical valc , Pc and , respectively.
ues at yielding inception A
c
The dimensionless expressions can be expressed in the general forms:

K = 0.454 + 0.41v

Ac = b(/c )m
A/

[8]

P /Pc = c(/c )n

[9]

E is the Hertz elastic modulus defined as:


where:

1
1 12
1 22
=
+
E
E1
E2
E1, E2 and v1, v2 are Youngs moduli and Poissons ratios of
the contacting surfaces, respectively.
The dimensionless critical interference, c , is another form of
the plasticity index, , defined by Greenwood and Williamson
(11) as

= (c

0.5
2E s 0.5
)
=
( )
s
KH R

[5]

As can be seen the plasticity index depends on surface roughness and material properties. Rougher and softer surfaces have
higher plasticity index.
, and the contact load,
During loading, the area of contact, A

P , of each individual asperity depend only on its own interference, , assuming there is no interaction between asperities. The
and P on must be determined by the asperity
dependence of A
mode of deformation, which can be elastic, elastic-plastic or fully
plastic. Once these expressions are known, the total contact area,
A, and contact load, P, are obtained by summing the individual
asperity contributions using a statistical model:

A = An

d)(z)dz
A(z

[6]


P = An
d

[10]

2
Pc = KHRc
3

[11]

The values of the constants b, m, c and n are determined by the


contact mode in four different deformation regimes and are summarized in Table 1.
Multiplying Eqs. [8] and [10] and using the values in Table 1,
, of a single asperity in the four different deforthe contact area, A
mation regimes can be obtained. Substituting in Eq. [6], using the
dimensionless length definition and Eq. [3] one can obtain the
*
dimensionless contact area, A , between the rough surfaces:

 d +c
A

A =
= c (
I 1 + 0.93
An
d

d +6c

1.136

d +c

d +110c

Ac = Rc


+ 0.94

d +110c

d +6c

I 1)

I 1.146 + 2

[12]

where I is a general form of the integrand:

P (z d)(z)dz

[7]

I = (

z d
) (z )dz
c

[13]

386

L. KOGUT AND I. ETSION

TABLE 1THE VALUES OF b, n, c AND m IN THE VARIOUS DEFORMATION REGIMES

Deformation Regime
Fully elastic, /c < 1
1st elastic-plastic regime, 1 /c 6
2nd elastic-plastic regime, 6 /c 110
Fully plastic, /c > 110

The four integrals in Eq. [12] and their corresponding limits of


integration represent the contribution of the asperities in elastic,
elastic-plastic (in the two sub-regions) and fully plastic contact,
respectively. This methodology will be maintained in the following.
As can be seen from Eq. [5] the dimensionless critical interference, c , is another form of the plasticity index, . The ratio
/s that is given in Eq. [1] as a function of can be assumed
/s 1 for practical values of . Therefore, the plasticity index
can be related to the dimensionless critical interference in the
form c
= 2 . Higher plasticity index is associated with
smaller dimensionless critical interference and hence, for higher
values the integration spans of the first three integrals in Eq.
[12] become smaller while the last integral, that represents the
fully plastic asperities, becomes dominant. From the approximation c
= 2 it can also be seen that at high values c and
hence, the real area of contact become less sensitive to variations
in . The opposite is true for smaller values where a predominantly elastic contact is obtained and the real contact area is more
sensitive to variations of . From the above discussion it may be
deduced that the plasticity index is the main dimensionless
parameter that affects the contact problem.
As mentioned by Greenwood and Williamson (11) plastic
deformation at the real area of contact may be of vital importance
even when the area of plastic contact is trivial. Frequently with
oxide covered surfaces electrical contact will occur at plastically
deformed asperities. Thus, the conductance through the plastic
contacts is of great interest. The plastic portion of the contact area,
Ap /A, of a single asperity can be obtained from the location of
the elastic-plastic boundary for 6 /c 68 that was presented
by Kogut and Etsion (17). Curve fitting the results of Kogut and
Etsion (17) gives the form:

Ap

= 0.016 0.081 for 6 /c 68

c
A

[14]

Recall that for /c < 6 the entire contact area is elastic


p /A = 0) while for / > 68 the entire contact area is plastic
(A
c
p /A = 1. Collecting the contribution of the asperities with
and A
/c 6 one can obtain the plastic portion of the real contact area,
Ap/A.

Ap
=
A

d +68c

d +6c

(0.016I 1 0.081I 0 ) +

CONSTANT
m
1
1.136
1.146
1

b
1
0.93
0.94
2

I 0 [15]

d +68c

Following the same procedure that have lead to Eq. [12], with
*
Eqs. [9], [11] and [7], the dimensionless contact load, P , is
obtained in the form:

P =

P
An H

c
1
1.03
1.40
3/K

n
1.5
1.425
1.263
1

= 23 Kc

 d +
 d +6
( d c I 1.5 + 1.03 d + c I 1.425 + 1.4
c

 d +110c
d +6c

I 1.263 +

3
K

d +110c

I 1)

[16]
*

Note that the dimensionless contact load, P , is obtained by


dividing the nominal contact pressure, P/An, by the hardness, H,
*
and hence, P = 1 is the load corresponding to a fully plastic state
(i.e., mean contact pressure that is equal to the hardness) of the
nominal contact area. This form of normalization is more adequate for elastic-plastic contact than that of the CEB model
(Chang, et al., (5)), where AnE normalized the contact load.
From Eqs. [15] and [16] it can be seen once again that the plasticity index, through its relation with the critical interference, is
the main dimensionless parameter that affects the contact problem. Some insight regarding the role of this parameter in cases of
a Gaussian distribution of asperity heights can be gained from the
following observation:
For Gaussian distribution the maximum practical height of an
*
asperity is z 3. Hence, the various integrals in Eqs. [12], [15]
and [16] are practically zero whenever their lower limit is higher
than 3. Using the approximation c
= 2 and noting that the
*
-2
limits of integration have the general form d + k the condition
for meaningful contribution of any of the integrals is:

>(

k
)1/2
3 d

[17]

It is clear from Eqs. [12] and [16] that the contribution of their
*
last threeintegrals (where k 1) vanish for any d > 0 whenever
< 1/ 3. Therefore, = 0.6 can be defined as the plasticity
index value below which the contact problem is fully elastic.
Following the same reasoning it is clear from the first integral of
Eq. [15]
(where k=6) that the ratio Ap/A is equal to zero for any
< 2. Therefore = 1.4 marks the transition from pure elastic to an elastic-plastic real contact area.
Similarly, the last integral in Eqs. [12] and [16] (where k =
110) becomes appreciable only if > 6. Below this value no
asperity can reach a fully plastic state. The significance of this last
integral, which sums up contributions of fully plastic asperities
only, can be evaluated by calculating the percentage of these
asperities in the total population of contacting asperities. It can be
easily shown from the Gaussian distribution that asperities with
*
heights z 0.68 account for 50% of all contacting asperities when
*
d = 0. For this to happen the lower limit of integration of this last
*
integral should be 0.68 which, with d = 0, corresponds to =
12.7. Similarly 32% and 10% of all contacting asperities will be

A Finite Element Based Elastic-Plastic Model for the Contact of Rough Surfaces

Fig. 2Dimensionless mean separation, h , vs. the dimensionless con*


tact load, P , for various values of the plasticity index, .

fully plastic when = 10, and = 8, respectively. The value =


8 can therefore be regarded as the transition from elastic-plastic to
fully plastic contact. Any small increase of the plasticity index
above this value increases rapidly the portion of fully plastic
asperities and makes the contact problem more and more plastic.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
In accordance with the above observation a wide range of plasticity index values from = 0.5 to = 8, was covered to analyze
the effect of surface roughness and material properties on the contact of rough surfaces. The value = 0.04 was selected according
to the findings of Greenwood and Williamson, (11). A constant
value of K = 0.577 was used corresponding to a typical Poissons
ratio, v = 0.3, for metals.
*
*
Equation [16], which presents P as a function of d and c
*
can be transformed by Eqs. [2] and [5] to present P as a function
*
of the more practical separation h and plasticity index, . In the
following, only the results for the range of practical engineering
*
*
interest 0 h 3 will be presented. At larger separations, h > 3,
the number of asperities in contact is very small and in fact the
surfaces are practically separated, see e.g. Christensen (7). For
*
smaller separations, h < 0, the present model may be invalid since
asperities can undergo very large deformations which may violate
a basic assumption of no interaction between them. Additionally,
*
the results will be limited to P 0.1 which represents a mean
nominal contact pressure, P/An, that can reach 10% of the materi*
al hardness, H. For higher values of P bulk deformation may
occur which violates another basic assumption of the present
work.
*
Figure 2 presents the dimensionless mean separation, h , vs.
*
the dimensionless contact load, P , for various values of the plasticity index, . As can be seen the dimensionless separation, at a
given load, increases with increasing plasticity index, but
becomes less sensitive to changes in the plasticity index. This is
because as increases the contact becomes more plastic and the

387

Fig. 3Dimensionless stiffness of contacting rough surfaces, S, vs. the


*
dimensionless contact load, P , for various values of the plasticity index, .

average contact pressure approaches the hardness. Therefore, with


a given hardness, less real area is required to carry a given external load, and hence, less contacting asperities and higher separation are sufficient. Increasing the dimensionless load at a given ,
decreases the separation as would be expected. Note the very high
*
*
values of P that are required for reducing the separation to h =
0, particularly for high values. Small separation is important in
sealing applications where low values are beneficial if low
clamping loads are desired.
Figure 2 also shows, in dashed lines, the results of the CEB
model (Chang et al., (5)). For pure elastic contact, with 0.6,
both the present and the CEB models yield identical results as
would be expected. However, large differences (of up to 50% in
the contact load for a given separation) are found for 1. The
CEB model overestimates the results for plasticity index values
0.6 < 2 and underestimates them for higher values. Kogut
and Etsion (17) showed similar behavior for a single asperity with
a transition at /c = 16. Recall that for a Gaussian asperity
heights distribution the maximum practical height of an asperity is
*
*
z 3 hence, using Eq. [3] with d = 0 and the approximation
c
= 2 , the maximum practical dimensionless interference is

/c
= 32 . Hence, the transition value of corresponding
to /c = 16 is = 2.3.
It is interesting to investigate the dimensionless stiffness, S, of
contacting rough surfaces, which can be defined as
S = P /h . Figure 3 presents this stiffness vs. the dimen*
sionless contact load, P , for various values of the plasticity index,
. As can be seen the stiffness is almost constant, independent of
*
and very small at low contact loads P < 0.001. In this range
*
the contact behaves like a linear spring. As the contact load P
increases and more asperities come into contact the stiffness
*
increases sharply with P and becomes appreciably sensitive to
*
variations in . This behavior at high P values may provide a
convenient experimental way for estimation of the plasticity
index, , by measuring the contacting surfaces stiffness as their
approach changes due to small increase of the contact load.

388

L. KOGUT AND I. ETSION

Fig. 4Dimensionless real contact area, A , vs. the dimensionless con*


tact load, P , for various values of the plasticity index, .

Fig. 5Plastic portion of the real contact area, Ap/A, vs. the dimension*
less contact load, P , for various values of the plasticity index, .

Note that the termination of the lines at different values in


Fig. 3 (and in the following figures) is in accordance with the
maximum load shown in Fig. 2.
*
From Eq. [12] it is possible to calculate and present A as a
*
*
function of h and similar to the presentation of P . It is, how*
ever, more practical to present the real contact area, A , as a func*
tion of the known applied contact load, P . This can be easily done
*
*
*
by cross plotting the results of A and P at the same values of h
*
and . Figure 4 presents the real area of contact A vs. the contact
*
load P at various values. As can be seen the real area of contact, at a given load, decreases with increasing plasticity index and
becomes less sensitive to changes in the plasticity index. This,
again, is because the average contact pressure (for a given hardness) increases with and approaches the hardness hence, a
smaller real area is needed to carry a given load. For the same rea-

Fig. 6Dimensionless real contact pressure, P /A , vs. the dimension*


less contact load, P , for various typical values of the plasticity
index, .

son the effect of on the real area of contact diminishes with


increasing plasticity index. The real area of contact at a given
increases with increasing loads, as would be expected. Note that
*
the values of A representing the ratio between real and nominal
areas of contact are very small, in the range of 0.1% to 10% only.
Figure 4 also shows, in dashed lines, the results obtained from
the CEB model (Chang, et al., (5)). As can be seen the CEB model
predicts a fully plastic contact area that is insensitive to already
for 2, while the present model produces changes in the contact area at least up to = 8. This is because the CEB model
assumes fully plastic deformation for asperities that have reached
the critical interference c, whereas in the present model the fully
plastic regime is not reached until the interference is larger than
110c (Kogut and Etsion, (17)).
Figure 5 presents the plastic portion of the real contact area,
*
Ap/A, (Eq. [15]) vs. the dimensionless load, P , for various values
of the plasticity index, . The results are shown for plasticity
index values > 1.4 only, in accordance with Eq. [17] for k = 6.
As can be seen at = 2 the ratio Ap/A is still very small and even
*
for the largest load P = 0.1 it is less than 5%. This is clearly different from the claim made by Greenwood and Williamson (11)
that for > 1 plastic flow will occur even at trivial nominal pressure.
Figure 6 presents the dimensionless mean contact pressure,
* *
*
P /A , vs. the dimensionless load, P , for various values of the
* *
plasticity index, . The ratio P /A is obtained from Eqs. [12] and
[16] and represents the real mean contact pressure, P/A, normal*
*
ized by the hardness H, (see the definitions of A and P ). A fully
plastic contact is characterized by P/A=H (Tabor, (23)), which
* *
* *
corresponds to P /A = 1. Note from Fig. 6 that P /A for = 8 is
only 10% below this limiting value over the entire range of rele*
vant P values. This reassures the observation made earlier that
= 8 marks the transition from elastic-plastic to fully plastic contact, which is insensitive to the plasticity index, .

A Finite Element Based Elastic-Plastic Model for the Contact of Rough Surfaces

A=

P/H
0.41/

389

[19]

Finally, no comparison is made in this paper with the results of


either the purely elastic GW model or purely plastic model. It is
worth noting though that these models are limiting cases only and
indeed for 0.6 the present model compares well with the GW
model while for 8 it agrees with the fully plastic results.
CONCLUSION

Fig. 7Dimensionless elastic-plastic hardness, P /A , vs. the plasticity


index, .
*

It can be seen from Fig. 6 that varying P by three orders of


* *
magnitude barely affects the value of P /A at any given plasticity index value. Greenwood and Williamson (11) also noticed this
same behavior for pure elastic contact and coined the term hardness of an elastic contact that plays the same role as the material
hardness does in a fully plastic contact. Greenwood and
Williamson (11) showed that the plasticity index is actually the
ratio between this elastic hardness and the plastic hardness.
From Fig. 6 it is clear that the dimensionless mean contact pres* *
sure P /A is approximately constant for elastic-plastic contacts as
well and, hence, can be defined as the dimensionless elastic-plastic hardness. Knowing the value of such elastic hardness or
elastic-plastic hardness provides a simple mean for calculating
the real area of contact A for any given contact load P.
Also shown in Fig. 6, in dashed lines, are the results obtained
from the CEB model (Chang et al., (5)) that exhibits a quite dif* *
ferent behavior. In this model the upper limit of P /A , that is
insensitive to the plasticity index , is obtained already for 2.
This upper limit of the mean contact pressure is K (K = 0.577 for
the present case). This is due to an assumption of the CEB model
that all the asperities with interference larger than the critical one
have constant contact pressure of KH. Apparently, for 2 most
of the asperities deform with such interference.
Figure 7 shows numerical results (the open circles) of the aver* *
age dimensionless mean contact pressure, P /A , that was
obtained from Fig. 6 at each discrete value of the plasticity index
. The solid line in Fig. 7 represents the best fit of the numerical
results and has the form:

P /A = 0.41/

[18]

Equation [18] represents the dimensionless elastic-plastic


hardness. As can be seen this hardness approaches asymptotically the value of 1 as the plasticity index increases. It provides a
powerful tool for calculating the dimensional real contact area of
contacting rough surfaces under any contact load in the form

An improved elastic-plastic model for the contact of rough surfaces that is based on an accurate FEA solution of a single asperity contact was presented. It predicts the contact parameters, such
as separation, real area of contact and real contact pressure as
functions of the plasticity index and contact load. The present
model is based on constitutive laws appropriate to any regime of
deformation, be it elastic or plastic and therefore, provides more
accurate and reliable results than previous approximate models. A
comparison with the approximate elastic-plastic CEB model
shows identical results for pure elastic contacts having plasticity
index values below 0.6 but substantial differences for elastic-plastic contacts with plasticity index values above 1.
The main findings of the present model are the following.
The plasticity index is the main dimensionless parameter
that affects the contact of rough surfaces. Up to = 0.6 the contact problem is purely elastic, = 1.4 marks the transition of the
real contact area from entirely elastic to elastic-plastic, and = 8
marks the transition of the contact problem from an elastic-plastic
to fully plastic.
The contact stiffness of rough surfaces is very low and insen*
sitive to the plasticity index and contact load for P < 0.001. At
*
higher P values the stiffness becomes sensitive to variations of
, and may be used for estimating the plasticity index.
The mean real contact pressure is practically independent of
the contact load, similarly to the material hardness in fully plastic
contact. An elastic-plastic hardness in the form 0.41/ H can
therefore be used to relate the contact load and real area of contact.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT
This research was supported in parts by the Fund for the
Promotion of Research at the Technion, by the J. and S. Frankel
Research Fund and by the German-Israeli Project Cooperation
(DIP).
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