Superlubric particles for friction and wear reduction

Supervisors: Abhishek Gupta and Peter Schall

Friction between moving parts and the associated wear are responsible for about 25% of the world’s energy consumption. Superlubricity is a new mechanism of ultralow friction between solid surfaces, achieved with 2D materials such as graphene when sliding along incommensurate lattice directions (see image below). In this project, we want to bring superlubricity to the macroscopic scale using particles coated with superlubric 2D material. We will measure their resistance to shear (rheology), and investigate the underlying microscopic contacts between the 2D materials using 3D confocal microscopy. This technique allows tracking the individual particles during applied deformation to reconstruct their flow fields. To image the contact network, we will explore the natural fluorescence of the 2D materials, which becomes quenched when 2D material layers are in contact. These microscopic observations complementing the macroscopic mechanical measurements should give unique insight into the micromechanics of ultralow-friction lubricants.

Two layers of graphene (honeycomb structure) on top of each other in commensurate (left) and incommensurate lattice alignment (right)