To reduce friction, especially under high-temperature conditions, an oil-soluble polymeric friction modifier (polymeric FM) with a methacrylate backbone and hydroxyl groups has been developed. It was designed to have high adsorption performance and to increase in size when dissolved in base oil as the temperature is increased. To investigate the temperature dependence of the structural and tribological characteristics of the adsorbed layer formed on a metal surface by the polymeric FM, neutron reflectometry measurements and nano-to-macro tribological tests were conducted. The measurements revealed that the polymeric FM adsorbed efficiently on a Cu surface and formed a 6.0-nm-thick adsorbed layer at 23 °C. This adsorbed layer was highly swollen, and its thickness became about three times larger at 100 °C. Nanoscale friction tests using an atomic force microscope showed that the swollen-state adsorbed polymeric FM layer exhibited low-friction and surface-protection performance at 100 °C. Macroscale friction tests revealed the tribological behaviour of an adsorbed polymeric FM layer in elastohydrodynamic lubrication and mixed lubrication regimes. At higher temperatures, the increase in shear resistance due to the effect of thin-film lubrication was suppressed by the weaker segment–segment interaction, causing the boundary contact of the adsorbed polymeric FM layer to have low frictional properties on both ball and disc surfaces. The low-friction mechanism of the adsorbed polymeric FM layer at higher temperatures was justified by associating the temperature with the layer thickness.
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