Adsorption mechanisms for fatty acids on DLC and steel studied by AFM and tribological experiments

R. Simič, M. Kalin

Applied Surface Science 283 (2013) 460-470.


Fatty acids are known to affect the friction and wear of steel contacts via adsorption onto the surface, which is one of the fundamental boundary-lubrication mechanisms. The understanding of the lubrication mechanisms of polar molecules on diamond-like carbon (DLC) is, however, still insufficient. In this work we aimed to find out whether such molecules have a similar effect on DLC coatings as they do on steel. The adsorption of hexadecanoic acid in various concentrations (2–20 mmol/l) on DLC was studied under static conditions using an atomic force microscope (AFM). The amount of surface coverage of the adsorbed fatty-acid molecules was analysed. In addition, tribological tests were performed to correlate the wear and friction behaviours in tribological contacts with the adsorption of molecules on the surface under static conditions. A good correlation between the AFM results and the tribological behaviour was observed. We confirmed that fatty acids can adsorb onto the DLC surfaces and are, therefore, potential boundary-lubrication agents for DLC coatings. The adsorption of the fatty acid onto the DLC surfaces reduces the wear of the coatings, but it is less effective in reducing the friction. Tentative adsorption mechanisms that include an environmental species effect, a temperature effect and a tribochemical effect are proposed for DLC and steel surfaces based on our results and few potential mechanisms found in literature.

Keywords: DLC, AFM, adsorpcija, maščobne kisline

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