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Macroscale Superlubricity Enabled by Hydrated Alkali Metal Ions

Han, Tianyi, Zhang, Chenhui, Luo, Jianbin
Langmuir 2018 v.34 no.38 pp. 11281-11291
friction, lithium, lubricants, lubrication, metal ions, potassium, silica, silicon nitride, sodium
Superlubricity based on hydration lubrication provides a near-frictionless lubrication state for the extreme reduction of friction in aqueous conditions. Nevertheless, how to obtain the hydration superlubricity under macroscale conditions with higher load-carrying capacity still remains a challenge and the mechanisms governing macroscale superlubricity with hydrated ions are still not well comprehended. Here, we demonstrate that macroscale superlubricity based on hydrated alkali metal ions (Li⁺, Na⁺, K⁺) can be realized under high contact pressure between the Si₃N₄ ball and sapphire disk. The ultralow friction coefficients of 0.005 are obtained under average contact pressure up to 0.25 GPa by a universal micro-tribometer after a running-in period with acid solutions. The results reveal that running-in stage with acid solutions can not only make the worn region smoother but also generate a silica layer that is easy to shear, which provides excellent boundary lubrication. The hydration superlubricity occurs because hydration shells surrounding the alkali metal ions could generate the hydration repulsive force to sustain a large normal load and have a fluid response to shear simultaneously. These findings pave the way to the scale-up of hydration superlubricity and thus to the wide application of new water-based lubricants.