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Publication# Roughness Evolution Induced by Third-Body Wear

Abstract

Surface roughness is a key factor when it comes to friction and wear, as well as to other physical properties. These phenomena are controlled by mechanisms acting at small scales, in which the topography of apparently flat surfaces is revealed. Roughness in natural surfaces has been reported to conform to self-affine statistics in a wide variety of settings (ranging from earthquake physics to micro-electro-mechanical devices), meaning that the height profile can be described using a spectrum where the amplitude is proportional to its wavelength raised to a constant power, which is related to a statistical parameter named Hurst exponent. We analyze the roughness evolution in atomistic surfaces during molecular dynamics simulations of wear. Both pairs of initially flat and initially rough surfaces in contact are worn by a third body formed by particles trapped between them during relative sliding. During the first sliding stages, the particles trapped between the first bodies scratch the surfaces. Once the former becomes coated with atoms from the latter, the wear process slows down and becomes "adhesive like." The initial particle sizes are consistent with the minimum size to be expected for the debris, but tend to grow by material removal from the surfaces and to agglomerate. We show that, for the particular configurations under consideration, the surface roughness seems to converge to a steady state characterized by Hurst exponent close to 0.8, independently of the initial conditions.

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