The unique frictional behavior of polyethylenimine/molybdenum disulphide (PEI/MoS2)n thin films on steel substrates, deposited via the layer-by-layer (LbL) technique, is explored. The effects of gaseous atmosphere (i.e. air vs. dry nitrogen), and heat treatment of the coatings are investigated. The coefficients of friction (COFs) are reduced by factors of ca. 2 and 11 in air and N2 respectively, compared to an uncoated steel substrate. Ultra-low friction (COF < 0.02) is achieved in dry N2. After heat treatment of the coating at 500 °C, the COF in air and nitrogen does not change significantly, but the coating demonstrates much higher durability. Detailed characterization of the coating and wear debris are performed to understand the origin of these tribological properties.
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