Interplay between microstructural evolution and tribo-chemistry during dry sliding of metals


Understanding the microstructural and tribo-chemical processes during tribological loading is of utmost importance to further improve the tribological behavior of metals. In this study, the friction, wear and tribo-chemical behavior of Ni with different initial microstructures (nanocrystalline, bi-modal, coarse-grained) is investigated under dry sliding conditions. In particular, the interplay be-tween frictional response, microstructural evolution and tribo-oxidation is considered. Friction tests are carried out using ball-on-disk experiments with alumina balls as counter-bodies, varying the load between 1 and 5 N. The microstructural evolution as well as the chemical reactions beneath the samples’ surface is investigated by means of cross-sections. The samples with finer microstructures show a faster run-in and lower maximum values of the coefficient of friction (COF) which can be attributed to higher oxidation kinetics and a higher hardness. It is observed that with increasing sliding cycles, a stable oxide layer is formed. Furthermore, initially coarse-grained samples show grain refinement, whereas initially finer microstructures undergo grain coarsening converging towards the same superficial grain size after 2,000 sliding cycles. Consequently, the experimental evidence supports that, irrespective of the initial microstructure, after a certain deformation almost identical steady-state COF values for all samples are achieved.


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The authors wish to acknowledge the EFRE Funds of the European Commission for support of activities within the AME- Lab project. S. Suarez acknowledges financial support from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, project ID: SU 911/1-1).

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Correspondence to Philipp G. Grützmacher.

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Sebastian SUAREZ. He received his Electromechanical Engineering degree in 2008 from the National Technical University in Argentina and his Ph.D. degree in materials science and engineering in 2014 from Saarland University, Germany. He currently leads the Materials Engineering group at the Chair of Functional Materials (Saarland University). His research focuses on the design and implementation of new nanocarbon-based materials for tribological and electrical applications.

Philipp GRÜTZMACHER. He received his B.Eng. degree in materials engineering from the Nuremberg Institute of Technology Georg Simon Ohm, Germany, in 2012 and his M. Sc. degree in advanced materials science and engineering from Saarland University and the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in 2014. Since 2015, he pursues his PhD studies at the Chair of Functional Materials (Saarland University). His current research interests focus on tribology, laser surface texturing, and surface engineering.

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Grützmacher, P.G., Rammacher, S., Rathmann, D. et al. Interplay between microstructural evolution and tribo-chemistry during dry sliding of metals. Friction 7, 637–650 (2019).

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  • dry sliding
  • microstructural analysis
  • tribo-oxidation
  • wear