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Wear 257 (2004) 833–842

Effect of MoS2 additive on electrical pitting mechanism of lubricated


surface for Babbitt alloy/bearing steel pair under ac electric field
Chung-Ming Lin a , Yuang-Cherng Chiou b,∗ , Rong-Tsong Lee b
a Department of Mechanical Engineering, Cheng-Shiu University, Kaohsiung 833, Taiwan
b Department of Mechanical and Electro-Mechanical Engineering, National Sun Yat-Sen University, Kaohsiung 804, Taiwan
Received 1 December 2003; accepted 21 May 2004

Abstract
In this study, a static electrical pitting tester, SEM, and EDS are employed to investigate the effects of supply voltage, supply current,
MoS2 concentration, and oil film thickness on the mechanism of electrical pitting for the lubricated surface of Babbitt alloy/bearing steel
pair under ac electric field. The pitting regimes, consisting of pitting and no-pitting regimes, have been established in terms of the supply
voltage, the oil film thickness, and MoS2 concentration at different supply currents. The area of pitting regime increases with increasing
MoS2 concentration and supply current. It is seen from the pitted surfaces of the Babbitt alloy block that there exists an obvious concave
crater with a few plateaus. According to the force measurement, the formation process of the metal column is proposed. The cross-sectional
area of the plateau significantly increases with increasing oil film thickness and MoS2 concentration. Moreover, the ratio of pitting area
to interface power (Ap /P) increases with increasing MoS2 concentration and oil film thickness at the oil film thickness less than 6 ␮m.
When the oil film thickness increases from 6 to 10 ␮m, the value of Ap /P quickly increases to about 10 times, because MoS2 powders can
sufficiently suspend on the oil across the gap.
© 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Molybdenum disulfide; Electrical pitting mechanism; Lubricated surface

1. Introduction ment of the wear scar causes this improvement. Generally,


the lubricating effectiveness was improved with finer parti-
Electric current passed through the bearings has been rec- cles because finer particles more easily formed a complete
ognized as one of the sources of bearing failure, and the and continuous film than coarser particles. However, very
sources of bearing currents have been previously described few works investigate the effect of MoS2 concentration on
[1–3]. Generally, the damage of the bearing due to the shaft the electrical pitting under ac electric field. El Beqqali et al.
current can corrugate the surface and can considerably ac- [15] studied electrical properties of MoS2 . Furthermore, the
celerate the mechanical wear [4]. Its effect on the deterio- breakdown of hydrodynamic lubrication is correlated with
ration of lubricant has also been studied [5,6]. Costello [7] the dielectric strength of the lubricant, and this dielectric
indicates that there are four distinct types of bearing damage strength depends on the oil film thickness and the additive
due to shaft current: (a) frosting, (b) spark track, (c) pitting, concentration. Hence, it is worth investigating.
and (d) welding. In this study, the mechanism of electrical pitting on the
The addition of solid lubricants to mineral oils is used lubricated surface of Babbitt alloy/steel pair is investigated
to improve the friction and wear properties of oils [8–11]. by using the SEM micrograph and EDS analysis, and the
It was indicated by Stock [8] that the lubricated wear de- pitting formation diagram for the Babbitt alloy/steel pair is
creased with increasing amount of MoS2 at high load case, also established.
but somewhere between 2 and 4% should be the optimum
concentration at light loads. Bartz [12–14] thought that the
solid-lubricant additive raises the load-carrying capacity of 2. Experimental apparatus and procedures
liquid lubricant in most cases, but in some cases, an enlarge-
The experimental apparatus used here shown in Fig. 1
∗ Corresponding author. Tel.: +886 7 525 2000; fax: +886 7 525 4299. has been described in a previous experiment [16]. Using the
E-mail address: ycchiou@mail.nsysu.edu.tw (Y.-C. Chiou). plastic oil tank insulates the block specimen, and a small

0043-1648/$ – see front matter © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.wear.2004.05.002
834 C.-M. Lin et al. / Wear 257 (2004) 833–842

temperature was maintained at 25 ± 3 ◦ C. The specimens


of ball and block are made of commercial bearing steel
(SUJ2) and Babbitt alloy (85.84% Sn, 8.76% Sb, 4.88% Cu,
0.34% Pb), respectively. The test specimens are the same
one used in the previous paper [17]. The arithmetic average
roughness for the ball and the block surfaces are about 0.01
and 0.02 ␮m, respectively.
When the oil film thickness has been adjusted to a certain
value, the r.m.s. supply voltage is preset from 1 to 100 V
through an ac power supply, and the r.m.s. supply current
between ball and block specimens can be adjusted from 1
to 8 A through a variable resistor. The time of applied elec-
trical field between the specimens is 30 s. The strain-gage
and piezoelectric load cells simultaneously measure the
interface force between the specimens. The variations of in-
Fig. 1. Schematic diagram of the static electrical pitting tester. terface voltage (Va ), current (Ia ) and force can be measured
on the data acquisition system and fed to a personal com-
ball inserted in the pin specimen is held in an insulating puter for data analysis. Moreover, a digital oscilloscope is
holder. They are immersed in the oil tank, so that they can also employed to observe the variations of interface voltage,
constitute an electric circuit. The oil film thickness between current, and force. The interface impedance, Ra , is calcu-
the ball and the block can be adjusted from 0.2 to 25 ␮m lated from Ohm’s law (Ra = Va /Ia ). The interface force
by 2 ␮m heads of non-rotating spindle type. Moreover, an is used to judge the molten and the adherence states. The
analog mu-checker with a graduation of 0.1 ␮m is employed optical microscope or the scanning electronic microscope
to calibrate this oil film thickness. The sequence of operation (SEM) with the energy dispersion spectrometer (EDS) can
for this device has been described in the earlier work [17]. be used to observe the electrical pitting mechanism.
To avoid the effect of MoS2 particle on the accuracy of the
oil film thickness, the oil with the MoS2 powders is filled in
the oil tank after the gap distance is set to a certain value.
To select a certain size of powder, they are sequentially 3. Experimental results and discussion
filtered by the ashless filter papers of pore size 10, 8, and
7 ␮m after the MoS2 powders are uniformly mixed with 3.1. Variations of interface voltage and impedance
acetone. The SEM micrograph shown in Fig. 2 indicates
that the particle shape is flake-like and the average particle According to the experimental procedure mentioned
size is about 8 ␮m. Then the MoS2 powders are uniformly above, the typical results for the interface voltage and the in-
mixed to the mineral paraffin base oil (26.59 cSt at 40 ◦ C, terface impedance versus the oil film thickness for different
4.76 cSt at 100 ◦ C) so that their concentrations range from supply voltages, supply currents, and MoS2 concentrations
0.1 to 5 wt.% and their resistivity of the oil from 1.06 × 1014 are shown in Figs. 3 and 4. Fig. 3 shows the effects of MoS2
to 0.756 × 1014  cm measured by using the digital super concentration and oil film thickness on interface voltage and
megohmmeter (maximum range: 2 × 1017  cm). The oil impedance at supply voltage of 100 V and supply current
of 1 A. It is seen from Fig. 3 that the interface voltage and
impedance increases with increasing oil film thickness (h),
reaches to maximum at h = 3 ␮m, and finally decreases to
a certain value at h = 8 ␮m. When the oil film thickness is
larger than 10 ␮m, the interface voltage abruptly increases
to the magnitude of the supply voltage, and the interface
impedance increases to infinity, meaning that the insulation
condition has been achieved and the pitting disappears. On
the other hand, at the pitting condition, with decreasing the
MoS2 concentration, the interface voltage and impedance
increase, but the effect of MoS2 concentration on the min-
imum oil film thickness for the non-pitting region is not
significant.
When the supply current is increased to 8 A, the effects
of MoS2 concentration and oil film thickness on interface
voltage and impedance are shown in Fig. 4. By comparing
Fig. 2. SEM micrograph of MoS2 powder. the results of Figs. 3 and 4, with increasing the supply
C.-M. Lin et al. / Wear 257 (2004) 833–842 835

insulation condition significantly increases with increasing


supply current and MoS2 concentration. On the other hand,
at the pitting condition, the interface voltage and impedance
are significantly larger for 0.1 wt.% MoS2 than for the other
MoS2 concentrations.

3.2. Threshold condition of pitting formation

It is seen from Figs. 3 and 4 that with increasing oil film


thickness, the interface condition varies from the arc dis-
charge to the insulation. Under the arc discharge state, the
pitting occurs on the specimen surfaces. Hence, there ex-
ists a critical oil film thickness to judge the pitting status
at a certain of supply voltage and MoS2 concentration. On
the other hand, at a certain of oil film thickness and MoS2
concentration, when the supply voltage is larger than a crit-
ical value, the arc discharge occurs on the interface. This
critical supply voltage is known as the threshold voltage.
Hence, at a certain of supply current and MoS2 concentra-
tion, the boundary between no-pitting and pitting regimes
can be plotted in terms of the supply voltage and the oil film
Fig. 3. The effects of MoS2 concentration and oil film thickness on thickness, as shown in Figs. 5 and 6.
interface voltage and interface impedance at supply voltage of 100 V, and Fig. 5 shows the diagram of pitting regimes at supply cur-
supply current of 1 A. rent of 1 A for different MoS2 concentrations. It is seen from
this figure that the pitting region is significant influenced by
current, there exists the same tendency for the effect of oil adding MoS2 particles when the supply voltage is larger than
film thickness on interface voltage and impedance, mean- 30 V and the oil film thickness is larger than 1.5 ␮m. At the
ing that the interface voltage and impedance reaches to supply voltage of 100 V, the critical oil film thickness can
maximum at h = 3 ␮m, and decreases to a certain value at be increased to more than twice by adding MoS2 particles.
h = 8 ␮m. However, the minimum oil film thickness for the Moreover, the effect of MoS2 concentration on the critical

Fig. 4. The effects of MoS2 concentration and oil film thickness on


interface voltage and interface impedance at supply voltage of 100 V, and Fig. 5. The diagram of electrical pitting formation at supply current of
supply current of 8 A. 1 A.
836 C.-M. Lin et al. / Wear 257 (2004) 833–842

on the dielectric fluid [21–23]. On the other hand, at the oil


film thickness less than 0.6 ␮m, the supply current and the
MoS2 concentration do not influence the pitting region. This
results from the powder size always larger than 0.6 ␮m,
and the MoS2 powders cannot suspend on the oil across the
gap.

3.3. Observation of pitting surface

As mentioned above, the effect of MoS2 concentration on


the pitting region is notable under high supply voltage and
current. Hence, the important role of MoS2 concentration
on the pitting formation can be revealed by using SEM to
observe the feature of pitting and using the EDS to inves-
tigate the mass transfer between two specimens under the
severe conditions, such as high supply voltage and current
with large oil film thickness. The typical SEM micrograph
and the EDS analysis of the pitted surfaces are shown in
Figs. 7–9.
After the discharge time of 30 s, Fig. 7 shows the backscat-
tered electron images (BEI) of pitted surfaces on the block
and the ball for different MoS2 concentrations under the
Fig. 6. The diagram of electrical pitting formation at supply current of supply voltage of 100 V, the supply current of 8 A, and the
8 A. oil film thickness of 10 ␮m. It is seen from the pitted sur-
faces of the block that there exists an obvious concave crater
with a few plateaus. A few concave pits on the plateaus
oil film thickness is just a little. Fig. 6 shows the diagram of within the crater can be observed. Moreover, the solidified
pitting regimes at supply current of 8 A for different MoS2 metal strip, which flows from the crater during the arcing,
concentrations. It is seen from this figure that at the supply can be observed outside the concave crater. The crater size
voltage of 100 V, the critical oil film thickness can be in- and the area of the plateaus on the block surface increase
creased to more than five times by adding MoS2 particles, with increasing MoS2 concentration. Because the plateau is
and the effect of MoS2 concentration on the critical oil film subjected to the squeeze action of the ball, it is quite flat,
thickness becomes significant. and its height is larger than the thickness of strip outside the
It is seen from Figs. 5 and 6 that the pitting region be- crater.
comes wider with the addition of MoS2 powder on the oil. Fig. 8(a) and (b) shows the SEM micrograph of pitted
However, the supply current almost does not influence the surfaces on the block and the ball for the same electricity and
pitting region for the pure oil. The reason for this phe- MoS2 concentration conditions as Fig. 7(c) and (d) except
nomenon is that the addition of MoS2 powder on the oil for the oil film thickness of 20 ␮m. By comparing the pitted
exhibits the electro-rheological effect when it is subjected surfaces of Figs. 7(c) and (d) to 8(a) and (b), the crater size,
to a strong electric field over 4000 V mm−1 [18–20]. The and the area and the height of the plateaus on the block
electro-rheological effect is based on the tendency of polar surface increase a little with increasing oil film thickness.
particles to be influenced by the presence of an electric However, only one plateau remains. Fig. 9(a) and (b) shows
field. In the strong electric field, the particles orient them- the EDS analysis of the pitted surfaces for Fig. 7(a) and
selves along the electric field lines, and the attractive force (d), respectively. It is seen from Fig. 9(a) and (b) that a
between particles is increased due to the proximity of op- large amount of tin element, which comes from the transfer
posite poles. This attractive force causes particles to form layer of Babbitt alloy block, is left over the pitted surface
chains along the electric field lines, and these chains then of steel ball. On the other hand, a little amount of ferrous
slowly aggregate to form clusters. These clusters cause the element, which comes from the transfer layer steel ball, is
decrease of interface impedance, and the current flowing left over the pitted surface of block. It should be noted that
through the cluster becomes easier. Moreover, when the the molybdenum element could not be found on the pitted
supply current and the MoS2 concentration increase, the surface of the block.
distribution of powders in the clusters becomes close. Con-
sequently, the threshold voltage decreases and the critical 3.4. Formation mechanism of plateau
oil film thickness for the arcing discharge increases. This
phenomenon is similar to the electrical-discharge machining To understand the formation mechanism of plateau, the
(EDM) by adding the powders with different conductivity interface force between the specimens are measured by using
C.-M. Lin et al. / Wear 257 (2004) 833–842 837

Fig. 7. SEM micrograghs of pitted surfaces under different MoS2 concentrations at supply voltage of 100 V, supply current of 8 A, and oil film thickness
of 10 ␮m.

the strain-gage and piezoelectric load cells simultaneously between the opposite poles. In the stage (I), the attractive
during the test. The typical results are shown in Fig. 10 for force dominates the discharge process, but the interface force
the supply voltage of 100 V, the supply current of 8 A, MoS2 switches from the attractive force to the repulsive force with
concentration of 3 wt.%, and the oil film thickness of 10 ␮m. increasing time. Generally, the load cell of strain-gage type
To easily explain the relationship between the interface force cannot measure the instantaneous variation of the interface
and the plateau, the electricity process is divided into four force. It is inferred from the variation of interface force in
time stages: (I) 2.5 s, (II) 2.5–30 s, (III) 30–50 s (the power the first time stage that the molten metal column grows and
has been switched off), and (IV) 50–60 s (pull the specimens is in contact with the ball surface within a few milliseconds,
apart slowly). and then it pushes and squeezes the ball surface in the stage
It is seen from Fig. 10 that the arcing struck surface (I). In the stage (II), the interface force measured from the
produces the repulsive force, which can be measured piezoelectric load cell almost keeps a certain of value, but
by the piezoelectric load cell within 1 ms. However, the the interface force measured from the strain-gage load cell
attractive force can be measured after 1 ms due to the increases with increasing time. This indicates that the molten
electro-rheological effect under the action of an electric field metal column grows slowly, and it pushes the ball surface
838 C.-M. Lin et al. / Wear 257 (2004) 833–842

Fig. 8. SEM micrograghs of pitted surfaces under different MoS2 concentrations at supply voltage of 100 V, supply current of 8 A, and oil film thickness
of 20 ␮m.

further. However, the piezoelectric load cell cannot mea- the molten metal to form columns within a few millisec-
sure the repulsive force between the specimens. In the stage onds, and the interface impedance decreases to the order of
(III), when the power is switched off, the interface force 0.1 . These columns grow and are in contact with the ball
decreases with time. This indicates that the molten metal surface. When the power is switched off, the columns start
column starts to solidify and cool. Because of the shrink- to solidify and cool. Finally, the surfaces weld together.
age of solidified metal, the repulsive force decreases. In the When the specimens are pulled apart, a flat plateau can be
stage (IV), when the specimens are pulled apart slowly, the found. Consequently, the formation process of the column
pull force increases quickly with time, and its peak value is is proposed, as shown in Fig. 11.
larger than the other stages. This situation indicates that the To further understand the effects of MoS2 concentra-
surfaces weld together during the stage (III), thus, it need a tion and oil film thickness on the cohesive condition, the
larger force to part them. Moreover, the variation of inter- pull force to break welds is plotted, as shown in Figs. 12
face impedance indicates that a high momentary current is and 13. Fig. 12 shows the pull force for the supply voltage
passed through surfaces during the stages (I) and (II) or at of 100 V, the supply current of 8 A, and MoS2 concentration
the discharge duration. This result implies that the molten of 3 wt.% under different oil film thickness. Results show
metal column forms within few milliseconds, and it grows that the pull force is very small at the oil film thickness less
with time during the stages (I) and (II). The weld strength is than 6 ␮m. When the oil film thickness is larger than 8 ␮m,
defined as the pull force to break welds during the last stage the pull force is parabolically increased with increasing oil
or the ratio of the peak value of repulsive force to the area of film thickness. This result indicates that when the oil film
plateaus. In this case, the weld strength is about 26 N/mm2 . thickness is larger than 8 ␮m, and the MoS2 powders can
This value is about one-third of tensile strength for Babbitt effectively suspend on the oil across the gap, and they cause
alloy. This result indicates that the weld between the plateau the significant increase for the cross-sectional area of the
and the ball surface is not completely coherent, as shown in plateau. Hence, the pull force significantly increases with oil
Fig. 7. film thickness. These results agree with the SEM observa-
Based on the results of Figs. 7–10, the pitted surfaces tions shown in Figs. 7(c) and 8(a). Fig. 13 shows the effect of
formed at a certain oil film thickness during the discharge MoS2 concentration on the pull force under the same elec-
process can be considered as follows. When the arcing tricity condition as Fig. 12. Results show that the pull force
strikes across the gap between surfaces, the Babbitt alloy is parabolically increased with increasing MoS2 concentra-
block with lower melting point first melts, and then flows tion. These results indicate that the cross-sectional area of
radially outward. Under the action of the strong electrical the plateau increases with increasing MoS2 concentration,
field, the molten metal orients itself along the electric field and they agree with the SEM observations shown in Figs. 7
line. The attractive force between the opposite poles causes and 8.
C.-M. Lin et al. / Wear 257 (2004) 833–842 839

Fig. 9. EDS analysis of pitted surfaces under different MoS2 concentrations at supply voltage of 100 V, supply current of 8 A, and oil film thickness of
10 ␮m.

3.5. Formation mechanism of electrical pitting ing MoS2 concentration and oil film thickness. Hence, not
only the interface power but also MoS2 concentration and
It is known from a general interface discharge that the for- oil film thickness influence the formation of electrical pit-
mation of electrical pitting is the action of the Joule heat and ting. To investigate the formation mechanism of electrical
the arc strike, which directly relates to the interface power. pitting, the ratio of pitting area to interface power for differ-
Under the action of the discharge energy, the interface mate- ent MoS2 concentrations and oil film thickness is arranged
rial first melts and then splashes. Finally, a crater is formed. in Fig. 14 under the same electricity condition.
This discharge energy mainly dissipates on the medium and Fig. 14 shows the ratio of pitting area to interface power
the energy to cause melting and erosion of the surfaces. In (Ap /P) versus the oil film thickness under different MoS2
this study, the addition of MoS2 particles on the oil slightly concentrations at the supply voltage of 100 V, the supply
lowers the resistivity of the oil. The block surface appears current of 8 A. It is seen from this figure that when the oil
a crater with the protrudent plateau, as shown in Figs. 7–9. film thickness is less than 6 ␮m, since MoS2 powders cannot
Moreover, when the oil film thickness is larger than 8 ␮m, sufficiently suspend on the oil across the gap, Ap /P increases
the cross-sectional area of the plateau increases with increas- with increasing MoS2 concentration and oil film thickness.
840 C.-M. Lin et al. / Wear 257 (2004) 833–842

Fig. 10. The variations of interface force and impedance at supply voltage of 100 V, supply current of 8 A, oil film thickness of 10 ␮m, and MoS2
concentration of 3 wt.%.

Fig. 11. The formation process of the metal column: (a) the crater forms and the molten metal column initiates; (b) the metal column grows; (c) the
metal column grows and pushes the ball; (d) the column solidifies and shrinkages.
C.-M. Lin et al. / Wear 257 (2004) 833–842 841

Fig. 14. The ratio of pitting area to interface power vs. oil film thickness
Fig. 12. The effect of oil film thickness on the pull force to break welds at under different MoS2 concentrations at the supply voltage of 100 V and
supply voltage of 100 V, supply current of 8 A, and MoS2 concentration the supply current of 8 A.
of 3 wt.%.
quickly increases to about 10 times, because MoS2 powders
can sufficiently suspend on the oil across the gap to form
It is noted from this figure that the value of Ap /P can be
a cluster structure. This leads the molten metal to form a
increased to more than twice by adding MoS2 of any con-
column. Hence, the column connects the specimens and the
centration to the pure oil. On the other hand, when the oil
interface power mainly dissipates on the Joule heat. This
film thickness increases from 6 to 10 ␮m, the value of Ap /P
situation becomes more obvious with increasing MoS2 con-
centration, and it results in the increase of the cross-sectional
area of the plateau. Hence, the force to break weld also in-
creases, as shown in Fig. 13.
As mentioned above, the cross-sectional area of the
plateau and the pitting area increase by adding MoS2 parti-
cles to the pure oil. Hence, when the bearing surfaces are in
relative motion, they must shear the column connected the
surfaces. Consequently, the friction force and the damage
area of the electrical pitting increase.

4. Conclusions

In this study, a static electrical pitting tester, SEM, and


EDS are employed to investigate the effects of supply volt-
age, supply current, MoS2 concentration, and oil film thick-
ness on the mechanism of electrical pitting for the lubricated
surface of Babbitt alloy/bearing steel pair under ac electric
field. The main results are as follows:
1. The pitting regimes, consisting of pitting and no-pitting
regimes, have been established in terms of the supply
voltage, the oil film thickness, and MoS2 concentration
Fig. 13. The effect of MoS2 concentration on the pull force to break at different supply currents. The area of pitting regime
welds at supply voltage of 100 V, supply current of 8 A, and oil film increases with increasing MoS2 concentration and supply
thickness of 10 ␮m. current.
842 C.-M. Lin et al. / Wear 257 (2004) 833–842

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