Nanoparticles of transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDC) have been known to reduce friction and wear when added to oil-type liquid lubricants. Aggregation limits the ability of the nanoparticles to penetrate into the interface between the two rubbing surfaces—an important factor in friction reduction mechanisms. Doping has been successfully used to reduce agglomeration, but it must be done in the production process of the nanoparticles. The use of surface-functionalized nanoparticles is less common than doping. Nonetheless, it has the potential to reduce agglomeration and thereby improve the reduction of friction and wear. In this study, we present the results of preliminary tribological ball-on-flat tests performed with WS2
nanoparticles functionalized by a humin-like conformal shell, as additives to polyalphaolefin-4 (PAO-4) oil. We tested WS2
inorganic nanotubes (INTs) and two grades of inorganic fullerene-like nanoparticles (IFs). The shell/coating was found to improve friction reduction for IFs but not for INTs through better dispersion in the oil. The thicker the coating on the IFs, the less agglomerated they were. Coated industrial-grade IFs were found, by far, to be the best additive for friction reduction. We suggest the combination between reduced agglomeration and poor crystallinity as the reason for this result.
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