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Highly sp3-bonded, nearly hydrogen-free carbon-based materials can exhibit extremely low friction and wear in the absence of any liquid lubricant, but this physical behavior is limited by the vapor environment. The effect of water vapor on friction and wear is examined as a function of applied normal force for two such materials in thin film form: one that is fully amorphous in structure (tetrahedral amorphous carbon, or ta-C) and one that is polycrystalline with sp3 to disordered sp2 bonding is observed, no crystalline graphite formation is observed for either film. Rather, the primary solid-lubrication mechanism is the passivation of dangling bonds by OH and H from the dissociation of vapor-phase H2O. This vapor-phase lubrication mechanism is highly effective, producing friction coefficients as low as 0.078 for ta-C and 0.008 for UNCD, and wear rates requiring thousands of sliding passes to produce a few nanometers of wear.
Date Posted: 31 May 2012
This document has been peer reviewed.