Revealing the interface nature of ZDDP tribofilm by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and atom probe tomography
Journal article, 2020

Purpose To decrease wear and friction, zinc dialkyldithiophosphate (ZDDP) has been used in engine oil for several decades, but the mechanism of the tribofilm formation is still unclear. The purpose of this study is to characterize the chemical details of the tribofilm by using high-resolution approaching. Design/methodology/approach An ISO VG 100 mineral oil mixed with ZDDP was used in sliding tests on cylindrical roller bearings. Tribofilm formation was observed after 2 h of the sliding test. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and atom probe tomography (APT) were used for chemical analysis of the tribofilm. Findings The results show that the ZDDP tribofilm consists of the common ZDDP elements along with iron oxides. A considerable amount of zinc and a small amount of sulfur were observed. In particular, an oxide interlayer with sulfur enrichment was revealed by APT between the tribofilm and the steel substrate. The depth profile of the chemical composition was obtained, and a tribofilm of approximately 40 nm thickness was identified by XPS. Originality/value A sulfur enrichment at the interface is observed by APT, which is beneath an oxygen enrichment. The clear evidence of the S interlayer confirms the hard and soft acids and bases principle.


Boundary lubrication


Atom probe tomography

Roller bearing


Chia-Jui Hsu

Vienna University of Technology

Jenifer Barrirero

Universität des Saarlandes

Rolf Merz

Inst Surface & Thin Film Anal IFOS GmbH

Andreas Stratmann

RWTH Aachen University

Hisham Aboulfadl

Chalmers, Physics, Microstructure Physics

Georg Jacobs

RWTH Aachen University

Michael Kopnarski

Inst Surface & Thin Film Anal IFOS GmbH

Frank Muecklich

Universität des Saarlandes

Carsten Gachot

Vienna University of Technology

Industrial Lubrication and Tribology

0036-8792 (ISSN)

Vol. In Press

Subject Categories


Other Materials Engineering




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