Effects of surface chemistry on the mechanochemical decomposition of tricresyl phosphate

E Ogbomo and FH Bhuiyan and CA Latorre and A Martini and JP Ewen, PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 26, 278-292 (2023).

DOI: 10.1039/d3cp05320b

The growth of protective tribofilms from lubricant antiwear additives on rubbing surfaces is initiated by mechanochemically promoted dissociation reactions. These processes are not well understood at the molecular scale for many important additives, such as tricresyl phosphate (TCP). One aspect that needs further clarification is the extent to which the surface properties affect the mechanochemical decomposition. Here, we use nonequilibrium molecular dynamics (NEMD) simulations with a reactive force field (ReaxFF) to study the decomposition of TCP molecules confined and pressurised between sliding ferrous surfaces at a range of temperatures. We compare the decomposition of TCP on native iron, iron carbide, and iron oxide surfaces. We show that the decomposition rate of TCP molecules on all the surfaces increases exponentially with temperature and shear stress, implying that this is a stress-augmented thermally activated (SATA) process. The presence of base oil molecules in the NEMD simulations decreases the shear stress, which in turn reduces the rate constant for TCP decomposition. The decomposition is much faster on iron surfaces than iron carbide, and particularly iron oxide. The activation energy, activation volume, and pre-exponential factor from the Bell model are similar on iron and iron carbide surfaces, but significantly differ for iron oxide surfaces. These findings provide new insights into the mechanochemical decomposition of TCP and have important implications for the design of novel lubricant additives for use in high-temperature and high-pressure environments. Surface chemistry influences the mechanochemical decomposition of antiwear additives.

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