Acoustic emission analysis is an effective diagnostic method in modern tribo-monitoring. Many experimental studies have been conducted to investigate the relationship between AE parameters and wear and friction. This paper develops a theoretical model to correlate acoustic emissions to sliding friction based on elastic asperity contact of materials. It is found that sliding speed, load supported by asperities, the number of asperity contact and surface topographic characteristics influence the energy of AE signal. With the help of this model it is possible to estimate the contact load supported by asperities from AE measurement, which is a critical parameter to evaluate lubrication conditions in engineering applications. The establishment of this model will provide a theoretical basis for future studies on the motioning and prognostics of tribological process using AE technology.