Tribology Letters

, Volume 52, Issue 3, pp 485–493 | Cite as

The Effects of Environmental Water and Oxygen on the Temperature-Dependent Friction of Sputtered Molybdenum Disulfide

  • H. S. Khare
  • D. L. BurrisEmail author
Original Paper


Molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) is well known for exceptional friction and wear properties in inert and high vacuum environments. However, these tribological properties degrade in humid and high temperature environments for reasons that are not fully understood. A prevailing hypothesis suggests that moisture and thermal energy facilitate oxidation, which increases the shear strength of the sliding interface. The purpose of this study is to elucidate the contributions of water, oxygen, and temperature to the tribological degradation of MoS2. Generally speaking, we found a minimum friction coefficient that occurred at a temperature we defined as the transition temperature. This transition temperature ranged from 100 to 250 °C and was a strong function of the MoS2 preparation and thermal sliding history. Below the transition temperature, friction increased with increased water, but was insensitive to oxygen. Above the transition, friction increased with increased oxygen, but decreased to a limited extent with increased water. These results are generally consistent with prior results, but clarify some inconsistencies in the literature discussions. Contrary to the prevailing hypothesis, the results suggest that water does not promote oxidation near room temperature, but directly interferes with lamellar shear through physical bonding. Increased temperatures drive off water and thereby reduce friction up to the transition temperature. The results suggest that oxidation causes increased friction with increased temperature above the transition temperature. The data also suggest that water helps mitigate high temperature oxidation by displacing the environmental oxygen or by preferentially adsorbing to the surface.


MoS2 Solid lubricants Friction High temperature 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the AFOSR (YIP FA9550-10-1–0295) and the University of Delaware Graduate Fellowship for financial support of this work. We would also like to thank Prof. Joshua Hertz (UD) and Dr. Andy Korenyi-Both (Tribologix) for discussions of the sputtering process and resulting structures.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA

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