The diamond nanowire (DNW) film was deposited by N2-enriched microwave plasma-enhanced chemical vapour deposition (MPECVD) process. As-deposited DNW film was treated in O2 plasma which resulted in chemical and microstructural modification. Sheath of the DNW film is chemically constituted by amorphous carbon (a-C)- and graphite (sp2C=C)-like bonding. However, nanowires transformed into ultra-small spherical grains after the O2-plasma treatments. In this condition, a-C and sp2C=C bonding significantly reduced due to plasma etching caused by oxygen atoms. After the O2-plasma treatment, formation of functional groups such as C=O, C–O–C, O–H, O–CH3 and H2O was observed on the surface and inside the wear track as evident from the micro FTIR analysis. H2O is hydrogen bonded to oxygen-containing groups such as –OH and –H. The O2-plasma-exposed DNW film exhibits surface charging and causes formation of dangling bonds and electron trapping centres. This results in significant decrease in contact angle, hence superhydrophilic behaviour. The friction coefficient of O2-plasma-treated film showed super low value ~0.002 with high wear resistance 2 × 10−12 mm3 N−1 m−1. In the reciprocating ball-on-disc tribology test, only ~80 nm wear loss was observed after the 1 km of sliding distance at 10 N loads. Such an advance in tribological properties is explained by passivation of covalent carbon bonding and transformation of sliding surfaces by weak van der Waals and hydrogen bondings. High surface energy and the consequent superhydrophilic behaviour of film is attributed to the formation of the above-mentioned functional groups on the surface. This protects against deformation of the wear track leading to extremely high wear resistance.
Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics 46(42), 425304(10pages)