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Fullerene-based opportunities for robust engineering: making optimised surfaces for tribology

Final Report Summary - FOREMOST (Fullerene-based opportunities for robust engineering: making optimised surfaces for tribology)

The ultimate aim of the FOREMOST project was to provide industry with radically new coatings and lubricants to significantly reduce and control friction and wear in rolling and sliding contacts. As a consequence a wide range of machines incorporating transmission trains, sliding bearings, spherical joints and ball screw systems would substantially extend operational life, substantially reduce maintenance requirements and markedly reduce environmental impact.

The innovative coatings and lubricants introduced were based on the incorporation of nanoparticles of Inorganic fullerene-like materials (IFLMs) either by introducing preformed IFLMs into the deposition process/lubricant/paint or by forming the IFLM components in-situ during the deposition process. The new materials developed in the project are grouped in three categories:
- nanocomposite hard coatings, containing friction reducing IFLMs;
- nanocomposite polymeric coatings and paints containing IFLMs;
- liquid and solid lubricants containing IFLMs

A large variety of IFLM containing coatings and lubricants was developed and a number of potential solutions for each end- user application was identified on the basis of the coatings-specific requirements of each application.

Pure sliding laboratory tests indicate that for some industrial applications IFLM containing coatings could give significant reductions in friction coefficient. For example, remarkable results were obtained in pure sliding tests on Ni/P/IF WS2 coatings the friction coefficient of which at low humidity level was decreased to the range of 0.02-0.04 and remained constant during thousands of cycles. Similar behaviour was also identified in the coatings containing fullerene-like structures grown 'in situ'.

Tribological testing was undertaken not only to perform the preliminary ranging trials to select the most promising coatings for each application, but also to determine the coordinates within the contact conditions that the IFLM containing coatings and lubricants offer maximum benefit.

Excellent results were obtained for sliding/rolling applications, like gears or cam/tappet system, where FOREMOST coatings and lubricants were significantly better that all the state-of-the-art presently available competitors. Very good results were also obtained for different fretting fatigue applications for the aerospace industry. To make these materials available to the industry, NANOMATERIALS completed installation of all process equipment plus infrastructure of a pilot unit for cost-effective production of fullerene-like WS2 nano-spheres with a production capacity of 75 kg/day. Another project objective successfully achieved was to provide full chemical, structural and mechanical characterisation of IFLM coatings. Within these studies IFLM lubrication mechanisms were elucidated. Finally, FOREMOST provided also relevant contributions on health and safety aspects concerning inorganic fullerene-like nanoparticles.