Investigating Alkylsilane Monolayer Tribology at a Single-Asperity Contact with Molecular Dynamics Simulation

AZ Summers and CR Iacovella and PT Cummings and C McCabe, LANGMUIR, 33, 11270-11280 (2017).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.7b02479

Chemisorbed monolayer films are known to possess favorable characteristics for nanoscale lubrication of micro- and nanoelectromechanical systems (MEMS/NEMS). Prior studies have shown that the friction observed for monolayer-coated surfaces features a strong dependence on the geometry, of contact. Specifically, tip-like geometries have been shown to penetrate into monolayer films, inducing defects in the monolayer chains and leading to plowing mechanisms during shear, which result in higher coefficients of friction (COF) than those observed for planar geometries. In this work, we use molecular dynamics simulations to examine the tribology of model silica single-asperity contacts under shear with monolayer-coated substrates featuring various film densities. It is observed that lower monolayer densities lead to reduced COFs, in contrast to results for planar systems where COF is found to be nearly independent of monolayer density. This is attributed to a liquid-like response to shear, whereby fewer defects are imparted in monolayer chains from the asperity, and chains are easily displaced by the tip as a result of the higher free volume. This transition in the mechanism of molecular plowing suggests that liquid-like films should provide favorable lubrication at single-asperity contacts.

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