Due to their mechanical and physical properties, aluminium alloys possess wide potential in the automotive industry, particularly in hot reciprocating applications such as pistons for diesel and petrol engines. WS2 particle-reinforced composites could bring further improvements by reducing friction and wear between moving parts. Reducing friction improves efficiency by lowering energy/fuel use, ultimately leading to lower greenhouse gas emissions, while antiwear properties can prolong component life. This study compares for the first time the tribological performance of powder metallurgy-consolidated Al composites reinforced with either IF-or 2H-WS2 particles, so as to elucidate their mechanism of action in test conditions similar to those encountered in engine applications. The composites were tested in lubricated reciprocating contacts against AISI52100 steel balls and the impact of WS2 could be seen at both 25 and 100 °C. The reduced friction and wear at ambient temperature is due to the predominantly physical mechanism of action of WS2, while the best antiwear performance is measured at elevated (standard operating engine) temperatures that promote the chemical reaction of WS2 with the aluminium matrix. The investigation focused on studying the wear tracks/scars and the tribofilms generated on the composite and ball with optical profilometry, SEM, XPS and Auger spectroscopy.
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