Alkylamine-functionalized hexagonal boron nitride nanoplatelets as a novel material for the reduction of friction and wear†
Hexagonal boron nitride nanoplatelets (h-BNNPs), which are structurally analogous to graphene, were prepared via the ultrasound-assisted exfoliation of h-BN powder using N-methyl pyrrolidone as the solvent. The alkylamines with variable alkyl chains and electron-rich nitrogen atoms were grafted onto the boron sites of the h-BNNPs based on Lewis acid–base chemistry. The grafting of the alkylamines onto the h-BNNPs was confirmed using FTIR, XPS, TGA and 13C SSNMR analyses. The crystalline and structural features of the alkylamine-functionalized h-BNNPs were studied using XRD and HRTEM analyses. The TGA and FTIR results revealed a higher grafting of octadecylamine (ODA) on the h-BNNPs compared to trioctylamine (TOA). The cohesive interaction between the alkyl chains grafted onto the h-BNNPs and the hydrocarbon chains of mineral lube base oil facilitates the dispersion of the alkylamine-functionalized h-BNNPs. The TOA-grafted h-BNNPs (h-BNNPs–TOA) exhibited long-term dispersion stability compared to the ODA-grafted h-BNNPs and this was attributed to a higher degree of van der Waals interactions between the octyl chains of the TOA molecules grafted onto the h-BNNPs and the hydrocarbon chains of the mineral lube base oil. The tribo-performance of the h-BNNPs–TOA as an additive to mineral lube base oil was evaluated in terms of the coefficient of friction and wear using ball-on-disc contact geometry. A minute dosing (0.02 mg mL−1) of h-BNNPs–TOA significantly improved the lubrication characteristics of the mineral lube base oil and showed a 35 and 25% reduction of friction and wear, respectively. The presence of boron and nitrogen on the worn scar of an aluminium disc, as deduced from elemental mapping, confirmed the formation of a tribo-chemical thin film of h-BN lamellae on the contact interfaces, which not only reduced the friction but also protected the contact interfaces against undesirable wear events.