Lubricated non-conformal contacts, such as between gear teeth, operate with high levels of mixed lubrication, where the amount of direct asperity contact depends on operating parameters which influence the film thickness. Understanding of the levels of surface interaction is key to optimising component life, and there is considerable interest in sensitive monitoring methods such as Acoustic Emission (AE). Researchers have shown that AE can detect subtle changes in lubrication conditions, using sensors mounted directly on the rotating gears. However, the use of such sensors is complex and unsuitable for implementation in real gearboxes. The alternative, of using sensors placed on housings, is hampered by signal attenuation and noise. This paper presents a novel, non-contact stationary sensor, coupled by an oil film to the rotating gear, which is shown to be capable of detecting important changes in lubrication conditions with significantly higher consistency and precision than housing-mounted sensors, whilst avoiding the complexities of gear-mounted sensors.

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