Ionic liquid nanotribology: Stiction suppression and surface induced shear thinning

Rubén Álvarez Asencio, Emily D. Cranston, Rob Atkin, Mark W. Rutland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


The friction and adhesion between pairs of materials (silica, alumina, and polytetrafluoroethylene) have been studied and interpreted in terms of the long-ranged interactions present. In ambient laboratory air, the interactions are dominated by van der Waals attraction and strong adhesion leading to significant frictional forces. In the presence of the ionic liquid (IL) ethylammonium nitrate (EAN) the van der Waals interaction is suppressed and the attractive/adhesive interactions which lead to "stiction" are removed, resulting in an at least a 10-fold reduction in the friction force at large applied loads. The friction coefficient for each system was determined; coefficients obtained in air were significantly larger than those obtained in the presence of EAN (which ranged between 0.1 and 0.25), and variation in the friction coefficients between systems was correlated with changes in surface roughness. As the viscosity of ILs can be relatively high, which has implications for the lubricating properties, the hydrodynamic forces between the surfaces have therefore also been studied. The linear increase in repulsive force with speed, expected from hydrodynamic interactions, is clearly observed, and these forces further inhibit the potential for stiction. Remarkably, the viscosity extracted from the data is dramatically reduced compared to the bulk value, indicative of a surface ordering effect which significantly reduces viscous losses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9967-9976
Number of pages10
Issue number26
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes


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