Direct observation of tribochemically assisted wear on diamond-like carbon thin films

A. M'Ndange-Pfupfu, J. Ciston, O. Eryilmaz, A. Erdemir, Laurence Marks*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-356
Number of pages6
JournalTribology Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2013


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films


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