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Soft Interface Fracture Transfer in Nanoscale MoS2

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Molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) nanoflakes, nanotubes, and nanoparticles are used as solid lubricants and oil additives. We investigate the formation of transfer layers due to fracture during sliding on commercially available MoS2 nanoflakes. The sliding and fracture properties were observed in high-frame-rate videos and high-resolution images captured using in situ transmission electron microscopy. The orientation of the flakes and the adhesion to the surface and to the contact asperity determined the weakest interface, which subsequently determined the fracture transfer layer. The fracture continued until both surface and counter surface lubricant layers were a single sheet. The fractured material created a transfer layer or wear particles. We did not observe the proposed “deck-of-cards” sliding, where the sliding is distributed between all the layers of a MoS2 flake. Instead, we captured video of an entire flake fracturing at a weak point in the MoS2 sheets, a “weakest link” soft interface fracture model. The soft interface fracture transfer (SIFT) model is not specific to MoS2-layered nanoflakes, and we argue it is a general mechanism in the formation of tribolayers.

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This work was funded by the NSF under the Grant Number CMMI-1030703. EEH is funded through the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship. Portions of this work were performed in the Electron Microscopy Center of the Center for Nanoscale Materials at Argonne National Laboratory, a US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences User Facility under Contract No. DE-AC02-06CH11357.

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Correspondence to Laurence D. Marks.

Electronic supplementary material

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Online Resource 1 Video of Fig. 3a showing SIFT fracture (MP4 8,216 kb)


Online Resource 2 Video of Fig. 3b showing SIFT fracture (first half) and Fig. 7 showing evolving soft interface contact (second half). Also video of Fig. 8a, b (MP4 11,111 kb)


Online Resource 3 Video of Fig. 3c and Fig. 6a–c showing SIFT and transfer layer shown in Online Resource 5 (MP4 7,666 kb)

Online Resource 4 Video of Fig. 4 and Fig. 5 of a rolling flake (MP4 2,936 kb)

Online Resource 5 Video of Fig. 6d showing the transfer flake after Online Resource 3 (MP4 2,415 kb)


Online Resource 6 Video of Fig. 8c showing the soft interface fracture of partial flakes and sheets during piezo sliding (MP4 7,916 kb)


Online Resource 7 Video of Fig. 8d, e showing the soft interface fracture of the partial flake from the bottom flake from coarse sliding (MP4 4,032 kb)

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Hoffman, E.E., Marks, L.D. Soft Interface Fracture Transfer in Nanoscale MoS2 . Tribol Lett 64, 16 (2016).

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