The tribological behavior of electrical contacts, especially separable type electrical connectors at low contact loads, are considered. The reliability of these connectors has been a major concern due to the fretting phenomenon that can lead to an unacceptable increase in contact resistance. This study analyzes various aspects of the fretting mechanism from a tribological perspective where friction and wear are the primary cause of degradation in electrical components. With the use of precise tribological equipment (high data acquisition rate of 5000 Hz), the electrical contact resistance and coefficient of friction at the contact interface are measured. The measurements were made in-situ for a simulated fretting environment under various constant loading conditions. It was observed that low contact loads (1 N) and low fretting frequency (1 Hz) leads to a high degree of fluctuation in the coefficient of friction. However, for the same conditions, the lowest wear rate and electrical contact resistance were observed. The reason behind this could be due to the lack of continuous electrical contact and a high degree of fretting frequency under low contact loads, ultimately leading to extended periods of an open circuit. Experimental analysis indicates the existence of an optimum loading condition at which the fretting wear effect is at its minimum. Detailed analysis of post fretting surface roughness, coating wear, and wear debris is conducted, as well as transfer film formations to explain the mechanism of fretting observed.
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