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Effects of water molecules on tribological behavior and property measurements in nano-indentation processes - a numerical analysis

Yachao Wang and Jing Shi*

Author Affiliations

Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, North Dakota State University, Dept 2485, PO Box 6050, Fargo, ND 58108, USA

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Nanoscale Research Letters 2013, 8:389  doi:10.1186/1556-276X-8-389

Published: 17 September 2013


Nano/micro-manufacturing under wet condition is an important consideration for various tool-based processes such as indentation, scratching, and machining. The existence of liquids adds complexity to the system, changes the tool/work interfacial condition, and affects material behaviors. For indentation, it may also affect material property measurements. However, little effort has been made to study this challenging issue at nano- or atomistic scale. In this study, we tackle this challenge by investigating nano-indentation processes submerged in water using the molecular dynamics (MD) simulation approach. Compared with dry indentation in which no water molecules are present, the existence of water molecules causes the increase of indentation force in initial penetration, but the decrease of indentation force in full penetration. It also reduces the sticking phenomenon between the work and tool atoms during indenter retraction, such that the indentation geometry can be better retained. Meanwhile, nano-indentation under wet condition exhibits the indentation size effect, while dry nano-indentation exhibits the reverse indentation size effect. The existence of water leads to higher computed hardness values at low indentation loads and a smaller value of Young's modulus. In addition, the friction along the tool/work interface is significantly reduced under wet indentation.

Nano-indentation; Water molecules; Tool-material interaction; MD simulation; Tribological effect