, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 44–58 | Cite as

Tribological application and mechanism of epicuticular wax

  • Xuwen Zhong
  • Yanqiu XiaEmail author
  • Xin Feng
Open Access
Research Article


The plant cuticle is a complex mixture of omnipresent, commonly monofunctional, fatty acid derivatives and taxon-specific, generally bifunctional, specialty compounds. This study explored expanded applications for these substances. Four types of plant cuticles were distilled from leaves and the resulting lipid mixtures were analyzed using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. These were then used as additives for a synthetic ester lubricant. A reciprocating friction and wear testing machine was utilized to investigate the resulting tribological properties. The worn surfaces of the lower discs were observed and analyzed using optical microscopy and time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry. The results reveal that cuticular waxes can modify the friction properties of the base oil. Furthermore, cuticular waxes demonstrate better performance when compared to the commercially available additive molybdenum dithiocarbamates. A protective adsorption film was identified as the reason for the improved friction reduction and anti-wear properties of the lubricant on the friction pair. This study provides a reference for the study of new types of non-sulfur, phosphorus, and other active element additives and demonstrates considerable potential for the economical utilization of plant leaf waxes.


epicuticular wax tribological application GC-MS TOF-SIMS adsorption 



The authors appreciate the financial support for this academic work from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 51575181) and Beijing Natural Science Foundation (No. 2172053).


  1. [1]
    Beisson F, Li-Beisson Y, Pollard M. Solving the puzzles of cutin and suberin polymer biosynthesis. Curr Opin Plant Biol 15(3): 329–337 (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. [2]
    Barthlott W, Neinhuis C. Purity of the sacred lotus, or escape from contamination in biological surfaces. Planta 202(1): 1–8 (1997)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. [3]
    Kerstiens G. Signalling across the divide: A wider perspective of cuticular structure—function relationships. Trends Plant Sci 1(4): 125–129 (1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. [4]
    Krauss P, Markstädter C, Riederer M. Attenuation of UV radiation by plant cuticles from woody species. Plant Cell Environ 20(8): 1079–1085 (1997)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. [5]
    Riederer M, Schreiber L. Waxes-The transport barriers of plant cuticles. In Waxes: Chemistry, Molecular Biology and Functions. Hamilton R J, Ed. West Ferry, UK: Oily Press, 1995: 131–156.Google Scholar
  6. [6]
    Hannoufa A, McNevin J, Lemieux B. Epicuticular waxes of eceriferum mutants of Arabidopsis thaliana. Phytochemistry 33(4): 851–855 (1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. [7]
    Bernard A, Joubès J. Arabidopsis cuticular waxes: Advances in synthesis, export and regulation. Prog Lipid Res 52(1): 110–129 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. [8]
    Eglinton G, Hamilton R J. Leaf epicuticular waxes. Science 156(3780): 1322–1335 (1967)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. [9]
    Racovita R C, Peng C, Awakawa T, Abe I, Jetter R. Very-long-chain 3-hydroxy fatty acids, 3-hydroxy fatty acid methyl esters and 2-alkanols from cuticular waxes of Aloe arborescens leaves. Phytochemistry 113: 183–194 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. [10]
    Rashotte A M, Jenks M A, Nguyen T D, Feldmann K A. Epicuticular wax variation in ecotypes of Arabidopsis thaliana. Phytochemistry 45(2): 251–255 (1997)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. [11]
    Shepherd T, Wynne Griffiths D. The effects of stress on plant cuticular waxes. New Phytol 171(3): 469–499 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. [12]
    Pollard M, Beisson F, Li Y H, Ohlrogge J B. Building lipid barriers: Biosynthesis of cutin and suberin. Trends Plant Sci 13(5): 236–246 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. [13]
    Li Y H, Beisson F. The biosynthesis of cutin and suberin as an alternative source of enzymes for the production of bio-based chemicals and materials. Biochimie 91(6): 685–691 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. [14]
    Buschhaus C, Jetter R. Composition differences between epicuticular and intracuticular wax substructures: how do plants seal their epidermal surfaces? J Exp Bot 62(3): 841–853 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. [15]
    Racovita R C, Hen-Avivi S, Fernandez-Moreno J P, Granell A, Aharoni A, Jetter R. Composition of cuticular waxes coating flag leaf blades and peduncles of Triticum aestivum cv. Bethlehem. Phytochemistry 130: 182–192 (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. [16]
    Busta L, Budke JM, Jetter R. Identification of ß-hydroxy fatty acid esters and primary, secondary-alkanediol esters in cuticular waxes of the moss Funaria hygrometrica. Phytochemistry 121: 38–49 (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. [17]
    Xu X C, Xia Y Q, Wu H, Chen G X. The tribological properties of plant leaf extracts as lubricant additives for an aluminum-on-steel contact. Chin Sci Bull 59(36): 3621–3625 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. [18]
    Xia Y Q, Xu X C, Feng X, Chen G X. Leaf-surface wax of desert plants as a potential lubricant additive. Friction 3(3): 208–213 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. [19]
    Shi Q Y, Xia Y Q, Feng X. Lubricant adding with wheat leaf surface wax improving friction performance of steel/copper friction pair. Trans Chin Soc Agric Eng 32(15): 54–59 (2016)Google Scholar
  20. [20]
    Sodhi R N S. Time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (TOF-SIMS):—versatility in chemical and imaging surface analysis. Analyst 129(6): 483–487 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. [21]
    Castro W, Perez J M, Erhan S Z, Caputo F. A study of the oxidation andar properties of vegetable oils: soybean oil without additives. J Am Oil Chem Soc 83(1): 47–52 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. [22]
    Hsu S M. Molecular basis of lubrication. Tribol Int 37(7): 553–559 (2004)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. [23]
    Antusch S, Dienwiebel M, Nold E, Albers P, Spicher U, Scherge M. On the tribochemical action of engine soot. Wear 269(1–2): 1–2 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. [24]
    Studt P. Boundary lubrication: Adsorption of oil additives on steel and ceramic surfaces and its influence on friction and wear. Tribol Int 22(2): 111–119 (1989)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. [25]
    Wan Y, Liu W M, Xue Q J. Effects of diol compounds on the friction and wear of aluminum alloy in a lubricated aluminum-on-steel contact. Wear 193(1): 99–104 (1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The author(s) 2017

Open Access: The articles published in this journal are distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Energy Power and Mechanical EngineeringNorth China Electric Power UniversityBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations