Original Paper

Tribology Letters

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 79-88

First online:

Small amplitude reciprocating wear performance of diamond-like carbon films: dependence of film composition and counterface material

  • Jason A. BaresAffiliated withDepartment of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Wisconsin MadisonUniversity of Florida
  • , Anirudha V. SumantAffiliated withDepartment of Engineering Physics, University of WisconsinArgonne National Laboratory
  • , David S. GriersonAffiliated withDepartment of Engineering Physics, University of Wisconsin
  • , Robert W. CarpickAffiliated withDepartment of Engineering Physics, University of WisconsinDepartment of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, University of Pennsylvania
  • , Kumar SridharanAffiliated withDepartment of Engineering Physics, University of Wisconsin Email author 

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Small amplitude (50 μm) reciprocating wear of hydrogen-containing diamond-like carbon (DLC) films of different compositions has been examined against silicon nitride and polymethyl-methacrylate (PMMA) counter-surfaces, and compared with the performance of an uncoated steel substrate. Three films were studied: a DLC film of conventional composition, a fluorine-containing DLC film (F-DLC), and silicon-containing DLC film. The films were deposited on steel substrates from plasmas of organic precursor gases using the Plasma Immersion Ion Implantation and Deposition (PIIID) process, which allows for the non-line-of-sight deposition of films with tailored compositions. The amplitude of the resistive frictional force during the reciprocating wear experiments was monitored in situ, and the magnitude of film damage due to wear was evaluated using optical microscopy, optical profilometry, and atomic force microscopy. Wear debris was analyzed using scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive spectroscopy. In terms of friction, the DLC and silicon-containing DLC films performed exceptionally well, showing friction coefficients less than 0.1 for both PMMA and silicon nitride counter-surfaces. DLC and silicon-containing DLC films also showed significant reductions in transfer of PMMA compared with the uncoated steel. The softer F-DLC film performed similarly well against PMMA, but against silicon nitride, friction displayed nearly periodic variations indicative of cyclic adhesion and release of worn film material during the wear process. The results demonstrate that the PIIID films achieve the well-known advantageous performance of other DLC films, and furthermore that the film performance can be significantly affected by the addition of dopants. In addition to the well-established reduction of friction and wear that DLC films generally provide, we show here that another property, low adhesiveness with PMMA, is another significant benefit in the use of DLC films.


small amplitude reciprocating wear diamond-like carbon films plasma friction