mXene: new nanomaterial with lubricating properties

Scanning electron micrograph of exfoliated nanene sheets from MXene. (Image: Babak Anasori, Drexel University)

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mXene can be lubricant

Researchers at an Austrian university found lubricating properties in a two-dimensional nanomaterial, mXene, announced last week. The material, pronounced “maxene”, can be used as a lubricant even in extreme temperature conditions.

The group at the Vienna University of Technology, or TU Wien, worked alongside teams from Saarland University in Germany, Purdue University in the United States, and Universidad de Chile in Chile. “Like the graphene carbon material, mXenes belong to the class of so-called 2D materials: their properties are essentially determined by the fact that they are ultra-thin layers, unique atomic layers, without strong connections with the layer above or below,” TU Wien explained in a press release issued on April 20.

Sliding layers

As these layers can be easily displaced against each other, this makes the material good for lubrication. “Without generating abrasion, the slip of extremely low resistance is possible,” said the statement. “The friction between the steel surfaces could be reduced to a sixth – and with exceptionally high wear resistance.

Even after 100,000 motion cycles, the mXene lubrication layer still works smoothly. ”This makes the powdered lubricant useful in extreme conditions, such as space.

According to the university, the lubricating oil would evaporate in a vacuum during space missions, while mXene in the form of fine powder could be used in the same application. “Similar things have been tried with other thin-film materials, such as graphene or molybdenum disulfide,” added Carsten Gachot, professor and head of the tribology group at TU Wien’s Institute of Engineering Design and Product Development.

“But they react with sensitivity to humidity in the atmosphere. Water molecules can alter the bonding forces between individual layers. With mXenes, on the other hand, this plays a minor role. MXenes also offers heat resistance properties and can be used in the steel industry, where mechanically moving parts can sometimes reach temperatures of several hundred degrees Celsius, said Gachot.

Larger scale coming soon

Many other lubricants oxidize at high temperatures and lose their lubricity. “There is also already a great interest in these materials by the industry,” said Gachot. “We assume that such mXenes can soon be produced on a larger scale.”

The nanomaterial has at least a dimension between 1 and 100 nanometers. A nanometer is approximately one billionth of a meter.

Due to some of its unique properties, the researchers looked for ways to use nanomaterials in a variety of industries and applications, including semiconductors, surface engineering, and medicine.

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