Achieving ultra-low friction with diamond/metal systems in extreme environments
In the search for achieving ultra-low friction for applications in extreme environments, we evaluate the interfacial processes of diamond/tungsten sliding contacts using an on-line macro-tribometer and a micro-tribometer in an ultra-high vacuum. The coefficient of friction for the tests with the on-line tribometer remained considerably low for unlubricated sliding of tungsten, which correlated well with the relatively low wear rates and low roughness on the wear track throughout the sliding. Ex situ analysis was performed by means of XPS and SEM-FIB in order to better understand the underlying mechanisms of low friction and low-wear sliding. The analysis did not reveal any evidence of tribofilm or transferfilm formation on the counterface, indicating the absence of significant bonding between the diamond and tungsten surfaces, which correlated well with the low-friction values. The minimal adhesive interaction and material transfer can possibly be explained by the low initial roughness values as well as high cohesive bonding energies of the two materials. The appearance of the wear track as well as the relatively higher roughness perpendicular to the sliding indicated that abrasion was the main wear mechanism. In order to elucidate the low friction of this tribocouple, we performed micro-tribological experiments in ultra-high vacuum conditions. The results show that the friction coefficient was reduced significantly in UHV. In addition, subsequently to baking the chamber, the coefficient of friction approached ultra-low values. Based on the results obtained in this study, the diamond/tungsten tribocouple seems promising for tribological interfaces in spacecraft systems, which can improve the durability of the components.