Tribology Letters

, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 351–356 | Cite as

Direct Observation of Tribochemically Assisted Wear on Diamond-Like Carbon Thin Films

  • A. M’ndange-Pfupfu
  • J. Ciston
  • O. Eryilmaz
  • A. Erdemir
  • L. D. MarksEmail author
Original Paper


Friction represents a major energy wastage, with typical estimates in the range of 2–5 % of the GDP of developed countries; 15 % of the energy losses in a new automobile engine are due to friction (Uchida et al. J. Cryst. Growth 114:565–568, 1991). While the macroscopic laws of friction have been known for centuries, the exact nanoscale processes taking place are less clear. It is established that friction involves small asperities sliding on a locally flat surface, but the exact mechanisms of slip as well as energy dissipation are still unclear and sometimes controversial. In many ways even less is known about chemical reactions occurring during sliding, what is called tribochemistry. We report here direct in situ observation at the nanoscale of tribochemically assisted wear for a tungsten tip sliding on diamond-like carbon films in wet hydrogen, nitrogen and compare these to similar experiments in vacuum. Differences in the wear directly indicate passivation of the films in hydrogen and accelerated wear in wet nitrogen. The results are surprisingly similar to what one would expect at the macroscale, indicating that in many respects there is little difference between the processes taking place across many length scales.


Nanotribology Friction mechanisms Wear mechanisms Corrosive wear Solid lubrication mechanisms TEM EELS 



This study was supported by the National Science Foundation on grant number CMMI-1030703. Additional support was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Vehicle Technologies Program, under Contract No. DE-AC02-06CH11357. Research carried out in part at the Center for Functional Nanomaterials, Brookhaven National Laboratory, which is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, under Contract No. DE-AC02-98CH10886.

Supplementary material

11249_2012_74_MOESM1_ESM.tif (1 mb)
Supplemental Fig. 1 Micrograph of a DLC film after the conclusion of a sliding experiment in vacuum. No significant wear tracks are observed in these experiments
11249_2012_74_MOESM2_ESM.tif (8 mb)
Supplemental Fig. 2 Micrographs showing DLC film damage after long term exposure under the electron beam. In higher gas pressures, the general etching of the films occurred faster
11249_2012_74_MOESM3_ESM.xlsx (20 kb)
Supplemental Fig. 3 The chemical involvement of the adsorbed gas species can be seen directly from the EELS spectra. The near edge structure of the nitrogen K-edge changed over the course of the experiment to indicate different bonding environments of the adsorbed nitrogen. In addition, this chart shows the changes in energy loss of the nitrogen and oxygen species over time, as measured against the position of the carbon K-edge
11249_2012_74_MOESM4_ESM.xlsx (15 kb)
Supplemental Fig. 4 The ratio of adsorbed oxygen to nitrogen is measured using EELS to increase over the course of the sliding experiments in wet N2. The EELS counting process has negligible error, although there are systematic errors associated with sample drift, etc. The increasing O/N ratio suggests incorporation of oxygen into the solid phase during sliding
Supplemental Video 1

Zero loss energy-filtered video shows the development and progression of visible wear tracks on the DLC film during sliding in wet N2. The scale is identical to Fig. 1. Analysis of the estimated wear is shown in Fig. 3

Supplemental Video 2

Several sliding passes in 1.2 torr of wet H2. No measurable amounts of chemical wear were observed during these tests despite the presence of water vapor


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. M’ndange-Pfupfu
    • 1
  • J. Ciston
    • 2
  • O. Eryilmaz
    • 3
  • A. Erdemir
    • 3
  • L. D. Marks
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Materials Science and EngineeringNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  2. 2.Center for Functional NanomaterialsBrookhaven National LaboratoryUptonUSA
  3. 3.Energy Systems Division, Tribology SectionArgonne National LaboratoryArgonneUSA

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