Organic friction modifiers (OFMs) are important additives in the lubrication of machines and especially of car engines where performance improvements are constantly sought-after. Together with zinc dialkyldithiophosphate (ZDDP) antiwear additives, OFMs have a predominant impact on the tribological behaviour of the lubricant. In the current study, the influence of OFMs on the generation, tribological properties and chemistry of ZDDP tribofilms has been investigated by combining tribological experiments (MTM) with in situ film thickness measurements through optical interference imaging (SLIM), Alicona profilometry and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. OFMs and antiwear additives have been found to competitively react/adsorb on the rubbing ferrous substrates in a tribological contact. The formation and removal (through wear) of tribofilms are dynamic processes which result from the simultaneous interaction of these two additives with the surface of the wear track. By carefully selecting the chemistry of OFMs, the formulator can achieve lubricants that generate ZDDP antiwear films of optimum thickness, morphology and friction according to the application-specific requirements.
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