Journal article

On the debris-level origins of adhesive wear

Every contacting surface inevitably experiences wear. Predicting the exact amount of material loss due to wear relies on empirical data and cannot be obtained from any physical model. Here, we analyze and quantify wear at the most fundamental level, i.e., wear debris particles. Our simulations show that the asperity junction size dictates the debris volume, revealing the origins of the long-standing hypothesized correlation between the wear volume and the real contact area. No correlation, however, is found between the debris volume and the normal applied force at the debris level. Alternatively, we show that the junction size controls the tangential force and sliding distance such that their product, i.e., the tangential work, is always proportional to the debris volume, with a proportionality constant of 1 over the junction shear strength. This study provides an estimation of the debris volume without any empirical factor, resulting in a wear coefficient of unity at the debris level. Discrepant microscopic and macroscopic wear observations and models are then contextualized on the basis of this understanding. This finding offers a way to characterize the wear volume in atomistic simulations and atomic force microscope wear experiments. It also provides a fundamental basis for predicting the wear coefficient for sliding rough contacts, given the statistics of junction clusters sizes.


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