Effect of humidity on friction and Wear-A critical review

Zhe Chen, Xin He, Chen Xiao, Seong H. Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


The friction and wear behavior of materials are not intrinsic properties, but extrinsic properties; in other words, they can drastically vary depending on test and environmental conditions. In ambient air, humidity is one such extrinsic parameter. This paper reviews the effects of humidity on macro- and nano-scale friction and wear of various types of materials. The materials included in this review are graphite and graphene, diamond-like carbon (DLC) films, ultrananocrystalline diamond (UNCD), transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs), hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN), boric acid, silicon, silicon oxide, silicates, advanced ceramics, and metals. Details of underlying mechanisms governing friction and wear behaviors vary depending on materials and humidity; nonetheless, a comparison of various material cases revealed an overarching trend. Tribochemical reactions between the tribo-materials and the adsorbed water molecules play significant roles; such reactions can occur at defect sites in the case of two-dimensionally layered materials and carbon-based materials, or even on low energy surfaces in the case of metals and oxide materials. It is extremely important to consider the effects of adsorbed water layer thickness and structure for a full understanding of tribological properties of materials in ambient air.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number74
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films


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