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When trying to design a mechanical system to last as long as possible, scientists and engineers have to find ways of overcoming friction. While researchers have found many materials that help to reduce friction, conventional lubricants often have chemical limitations. A recent analysis at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory has identified the properties of a newer, exceptionally wear-resistant substance that works in a broader range of environments ("Extraordinary Macroscale Wear Resistance of One Atom Thick Graphene Layer").

Nanoscientist Anirudha Sumant and his colleagues at Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials and Argonne’s Energy Systems division applied a one-atom-thick layer of graphene, a two-dimensional form of carbon, in between a steel ball and a steel disk. They found that just the single layer of graphene lasted for more than 6,500 “wear cycles,” a dramatic improvement over conventional lubricants like graphite or molybdenum disulfide.

“For comparison," Sumant said, "conventional lubricants would need about 1,000 layers to last for 1,000 wear cycles. That’s a huge advantage in terms of cost savings with much better performance.”

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