Tracking antiwear film formation

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Science  03 Apr 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6230, pp. 40-41
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa3276

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Lubrication has been practiced since the early days of human civilization (1); for example, heavy objects were moved more easily on wooden or stone floors by spreading water onto the surface. In the early 20th century, the advent of the internal combustion engine and its long periods of operation posed several lubrication challenges. Modern lubrication and antiwear schemes use base oils supplemented by chemical additives (2). Much of the development, however, has been empirical in nature, leaving the molecular mechanisms that eventually lead to the desired reduction in friction and wear only rudimentarily understood (3). On page 102 of this issue, Gosvami et al. (4) present a rare exception in visualizing the formation of an antiwear film on the molecular scale and quantifying how its growth and stability depended on important parameters such as applied temperature and pressure.