What is Tribocorrosion?

Tribocorrosion is used for the chemical-mechanical planarization of wafers in the electronics industry. Via Saint-Gobain.com

Tribocorrosion is the breakdown of a material due to both corrosion and wear. Tribology is the study of friction, lubrication, and wear (specifically rubbing and impacting surfaces) combined with corrosion (which involves the chemical and electrochemical interactions between a material and its environment), which gives us the name tribocorrosion for the combined effects of the two.

While tribocorrosion can severely impact the lifetimes of engineering equipment such as pipes, valves, pumps, and even nuclear reactors, it can also be used in positive applications. For example, metal cutting and grinding in aqueous emulsions or chemical-mechanical planarization of wafers in the electronics industry. Therefore, it is more advisable to define tribocorrosion not in terms of its usefulness or damage to a material but instead define that tribocorrosion is a process concerning the irreversible transformation of materials or their function as a result of both mechanical and chemical or electrochemical interactions between two surfaces in relative motion.

Most importantly, tribocorrosion primarily affects passive metals, those metals which are normally corrosion resistant. Titanium, stainless steel, and aluminum are all common examples of passive metals. They are known as passive metals because they are thermodynamically unstable and very reactive in the presence of oxygen or water. The reaction is known as passivation and the resulting passive film gives these metals their corrosion resistance by protecting the underlying layer from the environment. The passive film is so effective at resisting corrosion because if damaged, it will spontaneously reform through reaction with the oxygen in the environment. However, if the material is rubbed severely or subjected to a stream of impacting particles, then the passive film will be damaged significantly and continuously. In this situation, the metal cannot effectively regenerate its passive film. Therefore, the metal will corrode more quickly than the passive film can reform. Therefore, material loss due to tribocorrosion will be much more than if the material were to be subjected to either wear or corrosion but not both at the same time.

Tribocorrosion can have negative effects which must be accounted for when designing. If two surfaces will be in contact and relative motion, then tribocorrosion must always be at least considered.

Learn How APP Can Help You Prevent Corrosion in Your Piping System

Updated on January 25, 2018

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