Understanding run-in behavior of diamond-like carbon friction and preventing diamond-like carbon wear in humid air.
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The friction behavior of diamond-like carbon (DLC) is very sensitive to the test environment. For hydrogen-rich DLC tested in dry argon and hydrogen, there was always an induction period, so-called "run-in" period, during which the friction coefficient was high and gradually decreased before DLC showed an ultralow friction coefficient (less than 0.01) behavior. Regardless of friction coefficients and hydrogen contents, small amounts of wear were observed in dry argon, hydrogen, oxygen, and humid argon environments. Surprisingly, there were no wear or rubbing scar on DLC surfaces tested in n-pentanol vapor conditions, although the friction coefficient was relatively high among the five test environments. Ex situ X-ray photoelectron and near-edge X-ray absorption fine-structure spectroscopy analyses failed to reveal any differences in chemical composition attributable to the environment dependence of DLC friction and wear. The failure of getting chemical information of oxygenated surface species from the ex situ analysis was found to be due to facile oxidation of the DLC surface upon exposure to air. The removal or wear of this surface oxide layer is responsible for the run-in behavior of DLC. It was discovered that the alcohol vapor can also prevent the oxidized DLC surface from wear in humid air conditions.