Langmuir, Vol.37, No.12, 3628-3636, 2021
Effects of Abrasive Particles on Liquid Superlubricity and Mechanisms for Their Removal
Liquid superlubricity results in a near-frictionless lubrication state, which can greatly reduce friction and wear under aqueous conditions. However, during the running-in process, a large number of abrasive particles are generated, and because these may lead to a breakdown in superlubricity performance, they should be effectively removed. In this paper, the morphology, size, and composition of abrasive particles were verified using scanning electron microscopy with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, and their influence on liquid superlubricity was explored through friction tests. Subsequently, different solvents were used to remove the abrasive particles, and the optimal cleaning process was determined by macroscopic tribo-tests and microscopic analysis. Finally, droplet-spreading experiments and a force-curve analysis were carried out to understand the abrasive-particle removal mechanism by different solvents. We found that SiO2 was the main component in the abrasive particles, and micron-sized SiO2 particles resulted in random "wave peaks" in the coefficient of friction and, thus, the superlubricity. Absolute ethanol + ultrapure water was determined to be the optimal solvent for effectively removing abrasive particles from friction-pair surfaces and helped the lubricant in exhibiting an ultralow friction coefficient for long periods of time. We proposed a "wedge" and "wrap" model to explain the abrasive-particle removal mechanism of different solvents. The SiO2 removal mechanism outlined in this study can be applied under aqueous conditions to improve the stability and durability of liquid superlubricity in practical engineering applications.