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Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is commonly used in sliding bearings. Why?
The choice of sliding surface of bearings is of vital importance because the sliding surfaces generate frictional forces which are exerted on the bearings and substructure of the bridge. For instance, PTFE and lubricated bronze are commonly choices of sliding surfaces for bearings. PTFE is a flurocarbon polymer which possesses good chemical resistance and can function in a wide range of temperature. The most important characteristic of this material is its low coefficient of friction. PTFE has the lowest coefficients of static and dynamic friction of any solid with absence of stick-slip movement (David J. Lee). The coefficient of friction is found to decrease with an increase in compressive stress. However, PTFE do have some demerits like high thermal expansion and low compressive strength.
In designing the complementary contact plate with PTFE sliding surface, stainless steel plates are normally selected where the plates should be larger than PTFE surface to allow movement without exposing the PTFE. Moreover, it is recommended that the stainless steel surface be positioned on top of the PTFE surface to avoid contamination of dirt and rubbish. Lubricants are sometimes introduced to reduce the friction between the PTFE surface and the upper stainless steel plate. Hence, the PTFE may be designed with dimples to avoid the lubricant from squeezing out under repeated translation movements.
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