Proof of concept project

Bio-Tribology of Incontinence Management Products

  • Date Published

    March 2016

  • Principal Investigator

    Dr Michael Bryant, University of Leeds

  • Co-Investigators

    Prof Anne Neville, University of Leeds

    Dr Pete Culmer, University of Leeds


Bio-Tribology of Incontinence Management Products examines how, under realistic conditions, slip and contact contribute to the development of pressure ulcers on the skin in the presence of faecal or urinary matter and emollients within the micro climate of an incontinence pad.

The work is led by the University of Leeds and will involve building a highly specialised network of experts specifically for the project who will then develop initial testing techniques using biological and artificial skin models.

Pressure ulcers have become a global burden in both developed and developing countries.

Whilst much research has been done to study the friction of skin-textile couples;  the mechanisms and interactions between contact mechanics, the emollients and lubricants used and ulcer formation are not well understood. Traditional tribological lubrication theory has been applied to many of these situations in an attempt to provide a quantitative parameter in which to assess skin-textile couples.

Friction under pure sliding lubricated/un-lubricated conditions (typical sliding distance 50-100mm) is typically used as a method of quantifying the propensity of pressure ulcer formation.Yet this is not a scenario that will typically lead to ulceration; ulcers most commonly develop in individuals who are not moving about, such as being bedridden or those who are confined to a wheelchair.

Questions still remain as to how the slip mechanisms and contact mechanics contribute to the formation and evolution of pressure ulcers and their interactions with system variables such as fecal or urinary matter, counter-body material and emollient systems under realistic loading conditions.

Image above taken from full report showing rig developed during reasearch


This project aims to develop an activity in incontinence tribology bringing leaders in the area of engineering tribology, cellular biology and incontinence technologies together in an attempt to bridge the apparent gap. This initial PoC project will facilitate further meetings with leading academics in the area as well as some initial laboratory investigations to form the PoC for future grant application.


  • Conduct a comprehensive literature review in the area of tribology specific to incontinence management to establish the current state of the art. This will likely be published in an internationally peer-reviewed journal.
  • Establish a small network in the area of tribology, materials technologies and mechanobiology.
  • Establish an initial research activity, informed and guided by the literature review and network established. The basic interactions between tribological factors such as slip mechanism, contact pressure, material couple and microclimate will be assessed with respect to pressure ulcer formation. Initial results will be presented at the IMECHE Incontinence X conference with the view to be published in an internationally peerreviewed journal.

Incontinence Management & PRevention through Engineering and ScienceS