Anomalous low friction under boundary lubrication of steel surfaces by polyols

L. Joly-Pottuz, J. M. Martin, M. I. De Barros Bouchet, M. Belin

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43 Citations (Scopus)


We present here anomalous low friction obtained with highly polished steel on steel hard contact lubricated by glycerol under severe mixed and boundary regimes (λ ratio below 1). We investigated the effects of contact pressure, sliding speed, and temperature on friction coefficient and electrical contact resistance. The mechanism of low friction (typically below 0.02) is thought to have two origins: first a contribution of an ultrathin EHL film of glycerol providing easy shear under pressure, second the chemical degradation of glycerol inside the contact when more severe conditions are attained, generating a nanometer-thick film containing shear-induced water molecules. This new mechanism, called "H-bond Network model", is completely different from the well-accepted "Monolayer" model working with polar molecules containing long aliphatic chains. Moreover, we show outstanding superlubricity (friction coefficient below 0.01) of steel surfaces directly lubricated by a solution of myo-inositol (also called vitamin Bh) in glycerol at ambient temperature (25 °C) and high contact pressure (0.8 GPa) in the absence of any long chain polar molecules. Mechanism is still unknown but could be associated with friction-induced dissociation of inositol and H-bond interactions network of water-like species with steel surface.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-29
Number of pages9
JournalTribology Letters
Issue number1 SPEC. ISS.
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Apr


  • Boundary lubrication
  • EHL
  • Glycerol
  • Superlubricity


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