Multilayers of polyethyleneimine and graphene oxide, (PEI/GO)15, were coated onto steel substrates via electrostatic layer-by-layer (LbL) deposition, and their tribological properties were investigated as solid lubricants. The coefficient of friction (COF) and specific wear rate (SWR) were measured against a poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) counterface ball, in various gas environments with different oxygen concentrations. The COF and SWR both significantly decreased with decreasing oxygen content. Detailed surface characterization of the contact area of the counterface ball revealed that continuous transfer films were formed in oxygen-free environments, but not in oxygen-rich environments. This is attributed to an increased proportion of sp3 bonding in the wear debris in the presence of oxygen (as confirmed by Raman spectroscopy), as well as possible suppression of wear debris adhesion on the counterface ball due to oxygen adsorption on the surface.
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