Project Breakthroughs

The science-to-technology breakthrough of SSLiP is to create a persistent network of superlubricious contacts that function as a macroscale superlubricious lubrication system. The superlubricious contact network (SLCN) will be realized through combination of counter-surface topography and interface-filling colloids of tunable size and property distribution. The former will be based on lithographic microstructuring of deposited hard tribocoatings, while the latter will exploit commercial colloids and microspheres. Superlubricious contact will be realized by novel functionalization of all surfaces with 2D materials for the creation of core-shell tribocolloids and tribomesostructures. These SLCN elements mitigate friction at load bearing interfaces due to micrometer roughness of manufactured surfaces by creating dynamic, local shear zones and mimicking the structural mismatch of atoms found at superlubricious atomic contacts. Unlike previous attempts to scale-up superlubricity, the SLCN incorporates regenerative function at multiple length scales: Tribochemistry operating at the contact scale will restore 2D material lattice structure while at the network scale damaged tribocolloids will be filtered away by size-selecting surface trenches. SSLiP will develop deep understanding of the detailed operation of the SLCN by high resolution contact visualization techniques capable of in situ spatial and temporal resolving of the dynamic superlubricious contacts as they are made and broken. SSLiP will be guided by and benefit from developments in the field of colloidal and granular physics applied to a completely new regime of stress, strain rate and contact topology.