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An experimental study of friction between wet and dry human skin and nonwoven fabrics

Many people who have urinary incontinence manage it with the use of absorbent hygiene products, such as pads. Long-term use of these products can lead to abrasion by friction between the topsheet (a nonwoven fabric) and the skin, and is exacerbated when the skin is wet. However, the nature and mechanisms of friction between skin and nonwovens are poorly understood, hindering progress to improve products. Most work on skin friction to date has involved the use of skin surrogates or real skin in the dry state only. Moreover, only a narrow range of different nonwoven fabrics have been investigated. The work described in this thesis aimed to improve understanding of friction between nonwoven fabrics and human skin, and was divided into four main blocks. In the first, friction was measured between a skin surrogate (Lorica Soft) and 13 different nonwoven fabrics, varying in structure, fibre material and manufacturing techniques. Amontons’ law was closely obeyed for all nonwovens (that is, coefficients of friction were independent of normal force) and the data were used to select a representative subset of five nonwovens for subsequent work. In the second block of work, an in vivo study of friction was conducted between the subset of (five) nonwovens and the dry volar forearm skin of 19 female volunteers (aged 20-95 years). It was found that Amontons’ law also held for all of these measurements, despite the general viscoelastic nature of human skin, the range of skin types (from smooth and firm to wrinkled and flaccid) and the difference in ages. The coefficient of friction for a given fabric varied considerably between participants (an increase of up to 101% of the lowest coefficient value), but the fabrics were generally ranked in the same order for all volunteers. The third block of work involved the measurement of wet friction between the subset of five nonwovens and volar forearm skin of five of the study participants. In general, the coefficient of friction increased with skin wetness/hydration by up to a factor of thirteen until the skin was damp/moist. The relationship for very wet skin (with surface water) – thought to be lubricated – was unclear and varied between participants and between nonwovens. However, further work would be required to locate and quantify the excess water in and on the skin, in order to more accurately evaluate the contribution of water to friction. Finally, in the fourth block of work, the fibre footprints of nonwovens against a surrogate skin surface (glass microscope slide) were examined, providing insight into how friction is mediated by the interface. Total fibre contact length was always extremely low (typically 0.3-1.6 mm · mm-2) and increased linearly with the log of pressure, usually due to an increase in the number of contacts and sometimes because of an increase in the lengths of existing fibre contacts.
Date January 2014
CreatorsFalloon, S. S.
PublisherUniversity College London (University of London)
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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