Lubrication of rough copper with few-layer graphene

JJ Bian and L Nicola, TRIBOLOGY INTERNATIONAL, 173, 107621 (2022).

DOI: 10.1016/j.triboint.2022.107621

It has been demonstrated through experiments and simulations that friction decreases significantly when graphene is used as a solid lubricant on various materials. However, the effect of increasing the number of graphene layers on lubrication is controversial. Some studies predict an increase of friction with the number of layers that can be imputed to increased contact area, others a decrease in friction attributed to increased flexural rigidity of the layers. Herein, atomistic simulations are performed to investigate the atomic mechanisms by which few-layers graphene lubricate rough copper surfaces when probed by a smooth tip. The results of the simulations show that increasing the number of graphene layers drastically reduces friction, while the deformation mechanism is found to change from atomic wear to recoverable flattening of surface steps, as the amount of interlocking between the surfaces is reduced.

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