Background/purpose: Friction studies are useful in quantitatively investigating the skin surface. Previous studies utilized different apparatuses and materials for these investigations but there was no real-time test parameter control or monitoring. Our studies incorporated the commercially available UMT Series Micro-Tribometer, a tribology instrument that permits real-time monitoring and calculation of the important parameters in friction studies, increasing the accuracy over previous tribology and friction measurement devices used on skin. Methods: Our friction tests were performed on four healthy volunteers and on abdominal skin samples. A stainless steel ball was pressed on to the skin with at a pre-set load and then moved across the skin at a constant velocity of 5 mm/min. The UMT continuously monitored the friction force of the skin and the normal force of the ball to calculate the friction coefficient in real-time. Tests investigated the applicability of Amonton's law, the impact of increased and decreased hydration, and the effect of the application of moisturizers. Results: The friction coefficient depends on the normal load applied, and Amonton's law does not provide an accurate description for the skin surface. Application of water to the skin increased the friction coefficient and application of isopropyl alcohol decreased it. Fast acting moisturizers immediately increased the friction coefficient, but did not have the prolonged effect of the slow, long lasting moisturizers. Conclusion: The UMT is capable of making real-time measurements on the skin and can be used as an effective tool to study friction properties. Results from the UMT measurements agree closely with theory regarding the skin surface.
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