Tribotronic control of an ionic boundary layer in operando extends the limits of lubrication

The effect of electric potential on the lubrication of a non-halogenated phosphonium orthoborate ionic liquid used as an additive in a biodegradable oil was studied. An in-house tribotronic system was built around an instrument designed to measure lubricant film thickness between a rolling steel ball and a rotating silica-coated glass disc. The application of an electric field between the steel ball and a set of customized counter-electrodes clearly induced changes in the thickness of the lubricant film: a marked decrease at negative potentials and an increase at positive potentials. Complementary neutron reflectivity studies demonstrated the intrinsic electroresponsivity of the adsorbate: this was performed on a gold-coated silicon block and made possible in the same lubricant system by deuterating the oil. The results indicate that the anions, acting as anchors for the adsorbed film on the steel surface, are instrumental

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