Superlubricity and tribochemistry of polyhydric alcohols

C. Matta, L. Joly-Pottuz, M. I. De Barros Bouchet, J. M. Martin, M. Kano, Qing Zhang, W. A. Goddard

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180 Citations (Scopus)


The anomalous low friction of diamondlike carbon coated surfaces lubricated by pure glycerol was observed at 80°C. Steel surfaces were coated with an ultrahard 1 μm thick hydrogen-free tetrahedral coordinated carbon (ta-C) layer produced by physical vapor deposition. In the presence of glycerol, the friction coefficient is below 0.01 at steady state, corresponding to the so-called superlubricity regime (when sliding is then approaching pure rolling). This new mechanism of superlow friction is attributed to easy glide on triboformed OH-terminated surfaces. In addition to the formation of OH-terminated surfaces but at a lower temperature, we show here some evidence, by coupling experimental and computer simulations, that superlow friction of polyhydric alcohols could also be associated with triboinduced degradation of glycerol, producing a nanometer-thick film containing organic acids and water. Second, we show outstanding superlubricity of steel surfaces directly lubricated by a solution of myo-inositol (also called vitamin Bh) in glycerol at ambient temperature (25°C). For the first time, under boundary lubrication at high contact pressure, friction of steel is below 0.01 in the absence of any long chain polar molecules. The mechanism is still unknown but could be associated with friction-induced dissociation of glycerol and interaction of waterlike species with steel surface.

Original languageEnglish
Article number085436
JournalPhysical Review B - Condensed Matter and Materials Physics
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Aug 28


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