Insights of the Ultralow Wear and Low Friction of Carbon Fiber Reinforced PTFE in Inert Trace Moisture Environment

P Johansson and R Elo and VF Naeini and P Marklund and M Björling and YJ Shi, TRIBOLOGY LETTERS, 71, 100 (2023).

DOI: 10.1007/s11249-023-01770-z

Ultralow wear rates and low friction have been observed for carbon fiber reinforced PTFE (CF/PTFE) when sliding against steel or cast iron in dry gas environments. Although the strong environmental sensitivity of this tribosystem is well known, the origin of the outstanding tribological performance in dry gas remains unanswered. Some researchers attribute the low friction and wear to the formation of carbon-rich surfaces in the absence of oxygen and moisture in the environment. However, low friction between carbon surfaces is generally dependent on moisture. In this paper, extensive analyzes are conducted on the tribofilms formed on the CF/PTFE surface and the steel counterface after sliding in a high- purity nitrogen environment. TEM analysis of a cross-section of the tribofilm on the steel surface reveals that the sliding surface consists mainly of iron (II) fluoride and not carbon, even though a significant amount of carbon was observed near the surface. XPS and TEM analysis further revealed that the tribofilm formed on the worn composite surface consisted of nanoparticle agglomerates, anchored to the PTFE matrix and to each other by carbon with turbostratic structure. Turbostratic carbon also formed an ultrathin and surface-oriented superficial layer on top of the agglomerates. Governing mechanisms of the low friction and wear of the CF/PTFE-steel tribosystem were investigated by complementary tribotests with pure graphite samples and MD simulations of the identified surfaces. These indicated that the low friction between the carbon and iron fluoride in the tribofilms is due to poor adhesion between the distinctly different surfaces.

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