Surface and Coatings Technology

Tribochemistry of diamond-like carbon coatings in various environments

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Diamond-like carbon films deposited on silicon wafers by r.f.-plasma-assisted chemical vapour deposition were friction tested in controlled atmospheres in a reciprocating pin-on-plate configuration using a steel sphere. Friction experiments were carried out in a vacuum range from 10-7 to 50 Pa, in dry nitrogen and in ambient air. Analytical investigations of the wear process were peformed using transmission electron microscopy-electron energy loss spectroscopy and secondary ion mass spectroscopy. In all cases a transfer film was observed to form on the steel pin during the first 100 cycles, associated with relatively high values of the friction coefficient (0.2-0.3) at this stage. Beyond N=100 cycles the friction coefficient decreased to 0.006-0.008 in a vacuum below 10-1 Pa and to 0.01-0.07 in a vacuum of 10-50 Pa and in dry nitrogen. The shearing ability of the interfacial film depends strongly on the nature of the atmosphere during friction, which affects the surface composition of the sliding counterfaces. A high vacuum is associated with ultralow friction and low wear. A poor vacuum and an inert atmosphere are associated with low friction and moderate wear. Ambient air is associated with relatively high friction and severe wear, coupled with the formation of roll-shaped debris of amorphous carbon containing iron oxide precipitates. © 1994.