Research ArticleMETALS

Lowering coefficient of friction in Cu alloys with stable gradient nanostructures

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Science Advances  09 Dec 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 12, e1601942
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601942


The coefficient of friction (COF) of metals is usually high, primarily because frictional contacts induce plastic deformation underneath the wear surface, resulting in surface roughening and formation of delaminating tribolayers. Lowering the COF of metals is crucial for improving the reliability and efficiency of metal contacts in engineering applications but is technically challenging. Refining the metals’ grains to nanoscale cannot reduce dry-sliding COFs, although their hardness may be elevated many times. We report that a submillimeter-thick stable gradient nanograined surface layer enables a significant reduction in the COF of a Cu alloy under high-load dry sliding, from 0.64 (coarse-grained samples) to 0.29, which is smaller than the COFs of many ceramics. The unprecedented stable low COF stems from effective suppression of sliding-induced surface roughening and formation of delaminating tribolayer, owing to the stable gradient nanostructures that can accommodate large plastic strains under repeated sliding for more than 30,000 cycles.

  • Nanostructures
  • gradient nanostructures
  • friction
  • coefficient of friction
  • metals
  • Cu alloys
  • surface roughening

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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