We report a joint theoretical and experimental study of the tribological properties of gold-yttrium stabilized zirconia (YSZ) based nanocomposite coatings, with a focus on the role of nanocrystalline grain size. Nanocomposites hold great promise for space and ambient applications, on account of their ability to adapt to and exhibit low friction and wear rates in constantly varying environmental conditions. Their internal structure has been the topic of prior literature, but the impact of grain size on tribological performance has heretofore not been considered, and the surface topology has not been reported. As such, we have performed both experimental and theoretical studies, to model the impact of grain size on film stress and wear attributes, and to document surface region grain size distributions through scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) measurements of self-affine fractal scaling properties. Nanocrystalline gold crystal sizes, as determined from STM and x-ray diffraction (XRD) data are consistent with those inferred from high resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) measurements. Our modeling results associate smaller grain sizes with lower wear rates, consistent with experiments. The findings show promise for nanoscale customization of coatings so as to tailor them at the nanoscale in an application specific manner.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.