Friction and normal forces of model friction modifier additives in simulations of boundary lubrication

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Interaction forces between solid surfaces are often mitigated by adsorbed molecules that control normal and friction forces at nanoscale separations. Molecular dynamics simulations were conducted of opposing semi-ordered monolayers of united-atom chains on sliding surfaces to relate friction and normal forces to imposed sliding velocity and inter-surface separation. Practical examples include adsorbed friction-modifier molecules in automatic transmission fluids. Friction scenarios in the simulations had zero, one, or two fluid layers trapped between adsorbed monolayers. Sliding friction forces increased with sliding velocity at each stable separation. Lower normal forces were obtained than in most previous nanotribology molecular simulations and were relatively independent of sliding speed. Distinguishing average frictional force from its fluctuations showed the importance of system size. Uniform velocities were obtained in the sliding direction across each adsorbed film, with a gradient across the gap containing trapped fluid. The calculated friction stress was consistent with measurements reported using a surface forces apparatus, indicating that drag between an adsorbed layer and trapped fluid can account sufficiently for sliding friction in friction modifier systems. An example is shown in which changes in molecular organisation parallel to the surface led to a large change in normal force but no change in friction force.

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Molecular Physics