Molecular Orientation of Polymer Lubricant Films: Its Tribological Consequence

[+] Author and Article Information
Chao Gao, Tam Vo, Joel Weiss

Akashic Memories Corporation, 304 Turquoise Street, San Jose, CA 95134

J. Tribol 120(2), 369-378 (Apr 01, 1998) (10 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2834436 History: Received December 03, 1996; Revised May 30, 1997; Online January 24, 2008


The objective of this paper is to demonstrate, from experiments and modeling, how and why molecular orientation of functional end groups of perfluoro-polyether (PFPE) lubricants play an important role in the tribological performance of thin film magnetic disks. These disks typically have an amorphous carbon overcoat upon which a thin lubricant layer is deposited using dip-coating technique. Glancing-angle FTIR (Fourier Transform Infra-Red Spectrometry) is used for measuring molecular orientation of planer functional end groups. A molecular orientation index (MOI) was defined as 1 for randomly oriented functional end groups. The MOI is mathematically derived as 3 (maximum) for lubricant molecules oriented with their functional end groups perpendicular to the surface, and as 0 (minimum) if lubricant molecules oriented with their functional end groups parallel to the surface. The MOI is shown to depend on processing conditions and lubricant film thickness. The tribological performance of the lubricant films was evaluated using drag-mode contact start-stop testing. It was found that wear durability of the lubricant films (~2 nm) with MOI ~ 1.5 is a few times better than those with MOI ~ 0.5 to 1.0. No significant difference in the amount of bonded lubricant film was detected over the range of MOI studied. Nor was there a detectable relationship with hydrophobicity. It was inferred from decreased MOI values due to thermal effects and storage time that a smaller MOI value corresponds to a lower free energy state of the lubricant film. Interestingly, MOI values for bonded lubricant films for Process A are found to be close to 3.0, suggesting that almost all functional end groups in the bonded films are oriented perpendicular to the carbon surface, close to 2.0 for process B, and close to 0 for process C, meaning that almost all functional end groups in the bonded films from process C are oriented parallel to the carbon surface. Relationship between physical/chemical bonding configurations and MOI values are graphically presented in detail. Based on this relation, a simple model on lubricant film structures for the three processes studied is presented. The model MOI values agree very well with measured MOI values as a function of lubricant thickness for all three processes, and the model also appears to account for the observed tribology performance for the MOI values studied (0.5 ~ 1.5).

Copyright © 1998 by The American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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