Friction and wear impact the functionality, efficiency, and longevity of all devices containing sliding contacts, with substantial economic and environment impacts. Estimates place the cost of friction and wear at ~5% of the GDP in industrialized nations;10 equivalent to ~$120B annually in Canada. Friction leads to energy losses, placing greater demands on finite energy resources, while wear of devices increases waste. Lubricants mitigate these deleterious effects; however, lubrication is not presently an exact science and relies largely on variations on known lubricants or trial-and-error. As such, lubrication is not optimal in a broad sense, and lubrication strategies are lacking for emerging technologies such as miniaturized devices.
The development of improved lubrication strategies requires a detailed understanding of the atomic-level origins of friction and wear. Our group uses chemical simulations for the purposes of gaining such insights. While friction has been studied for decades with simulations, our group is largely unique in using first-principles molecular dynamics simulations to study friction and wear. The ability to described sliding induced changes in bonding through these simulations has shed light on fundamental details of friction and wear, allowed us to suggest new lubrication paradigms, and has led to improve friction laws.
Our present research in this area involves using simulations to explore the properties of friction modifiers, protective carbene-based coatings, and low-friction two-dimensional hydrogen bonded networks. In addition, our group develops analytical models that connect the results of our simulations to real-world properties and phenomena.