Tribochemistry of Carbon Films in Oxygen and Humid Environments: Oxidative Wear and Galvanic Corrosion.
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The effects of oxidation on wear of carbon/steel tribological interfaces were studied. When mechanical wear was small, the oxidation behavior of hydrogenated diamond-like carbon (H-DLC) and stainless steel (SS) sliding interface varied depending on the nature of the oxidizing environment. In dry air or oxygen, both H-DLC and SS wore readily. The wear debris of SS did not form iron oxide in dry air and oxygen. In humid nitrogen, however, the wear of H-DLC diminished with increasing humidity, and the SS surface showed mild wear and iron oxide debris accumulated around the sliding contact region. These results revealed that different tribochemical reactions occur in dry oxygen and humid environments. In the absence of water, oxygen oxidizes the H-DLC surface, making it susceptible to wear, creating debris, and inducing wear on both H-DLC and SS. In contrast, adsorbed water molecules at less than 40% RH act as a molecular lubricant of the oxidized DLC surface, while multiwater layers adsorbed at near-saturation act as electrolyte inducing electrochemical galvanic corrosion reactions on the SS surface. When hydrogen-free amorphous carbon (a-C) was used in tribo-tests, severe wear of the SS surface occurs, in addition to the tribochemical wear observed for H-DLC, due to the high hardness of the a-C film.