Frictional properties of mixed fluorocarbon/hydrocarbon silane monolayers: A simulation study

J. Ben Lewis, Steven G. Vilt, José L. Rivera, G. Kane Jennings, Clare McCabe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Because of small surface area to volume ratios nanoscale devices can exhibit dominant surface forces that can quickly degrade unlubricated contacting surfaces. While fluorinated materials have been widely used as lubricants, because of their low critical surface tension and high thermal and mechanical stability, fluorinated monolayer coatings, which are suitable for lubricating nanoscale devices, are less effective as lubricants. Although fluorinated monolayers are more stable than their hydrocarbon counterparts against elevated temperature and humidity, they are known to exhibit higher frictional forces. To overcome this issue, here we study mixed monolayers composed of both hydrocarbon and fluorocarbon chains. Hydrocarbon-based monolayers have been widely studied and shown to improve frictional properties and device life. To investigate the frictional behavior of mixed fluorocarbon/hydrocarbon monolayers, molecular dynamics simulations of pure hydrogenated and fluorinated chains and mixed fluorinated/hydrogenated chains on silica surfaces have been performed. The adhesion and friction between the nanoconfined monolayers as a function of normal load, chain length, and chemical composition of the monolayer coating have been investigated, and mixed fluorocarbon/hydrocarbon monolayers found to outperform both pure fluorocarbon and pure hydrocarbon monolayers. Surface coverage was found to have a significant effect on the performance of all systems studied with higher surface coverage resulting in lower frictional forces. The simulations also show that when the hydrocarbon chains in the monolayer are longer than the fluorocarbon chains, a liquidlike layer is formed by the longer hydrocarbon chains that protrudes above the shorter fluorocarbon chains and aids in friction reduction. A frictional load dependence is also seen in these mixed monolayer systems because of repulsive interactions between the fluorocarbon base layer and the hydrocarbon liquidlike layer. A chain length difference of eight carbons between the base layer and the liquidlike layer was found to provide the lowest friction, while both a larger (because of increased entanglement) and a smaller (insufficient atoms between the contacting base layers to form a liquidlike layer) chain length difference increased friction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14218-14226
Number of pages9
Issue number40
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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