This study examines the influence of inert gas atmosphere on the wear behaviour of rubbing steel-on-steel contacts lubricated by two hydrocarbon base fluids, isooctane and hexadecane. It is found that for both fluids, wear and mean friction in nitrogen and argon atmospheres are considerably lower than in dry air. As the oxygen content in nitrogen is increased, mean friction and wear both increase, to level out above about 10% oxygen (an O2 partial pressure of 10 kPa). Raman analysis of rubbed surfaces shows the presence of a carbon film on surfaces rubbed in inert gas and at low O2 levels. This film is not observed at high O2 levels.
These findings indicate that the prevailing model of oxidational wear in lubricated contacts, that states that wear is greater in air than in inert gas because of corrosion by oxygen, is largely incorrect. Instead, the deleterious effect of oxygen on lubricated wear is primarily due to it preventing the formation of a lubricious, carbon-based boundary film that is generated from hydrocarbon base fluids on rubbing steel surfaces in inert gas conditions.
The ability of organic fuels and lubricants to form carbon-based films on rubbing steel surfaces in inert atmospheres may provide a mechanism for reducing friction and wear of fuel- and oil-lubricated machine components. The study also provides a platform from which to design lubricant formulations for use in inert atmospheres.
- Contact us