Chemical nature of alkaline polyphosphate boundary film at heated rubbing surfaces

S. Wan, A.K. Tieu, Q. Zhu, H. Zhu, S. Cui, D.R.G. Mitchell, C. Kong, B. Cowie, J.A. Denman, Rong Liu

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51 Citations (Web of Science)


© 2016, Nature Publishing Group. All rights reserved.

Alkaline polyphosphate has been demonstrated to be able to reduce significant wear and friction of sliding interfaces under heavy loads (>1 GPa) and elevated temperature (800°C and above) conditions, e.g. hot metal manufacturing. The chemical composition and fine structure of polyphosphate lubricating film is not well understood as well as the role of alkaline elements within the reaction film at hot rubbing surface. This work makes use of the coupling surface analytical techniques on the alkaline polyphosphate tribofilm, XANES, TOF-SIMS and FIB/TEM. The data show the composition in gradient distribution and trilaminar structure of tribofilm: a shorter chain phosphate overlying a long chain polyphosphate that adheres onto oxide steel base through a short chain phosphate. The chemical hardness model well explains the anti-abrasive mechanism of alkaline polyphosphate at elevated temperatures and also predicts a depolymerisation and simultaneous cross-linking of the polyphosphate glass. The role of alkaline elements in the lubrication mechanism is especially explained. This work firstly serves as a basis for a detailed study of alkaline polyphosphate tribofilm at temperature over 600°C.

Original languageEnglish
Article number26008
Pages (from-to)1-17
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2016


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