Mechanisms of friction and wear reduction by carbon fiber reinforcement of PEEK

Carbon fibers are widely used as reinforcements in poly-ether-ether-ketone (PEEK). In recent years, these materials have also been used for tribological applications. For further optimization of these tribo-materials, the contribution and action mechanisms of carbon fiber reinforcements to the tribological performance of PEEK composites need to be understood. Toward this goal, we have studied carbon fibers in a PEEK composite by scratching experiments using Berkovich and conical indenters and friction imaging using contact atomic force microscopy. For comparison, scratching was extended into the PEEK matrix surrounding the carbon fibers. It is found that shearing dominates the friction and wear behavior of carbon fibers alone, while both shearing and plowing contribute to the overall friction of PEEK composites. There is no local variation in friction across a carbon fiber surface. The wear reduction by carbon fibers originates from their effective load-bearing capability. For the first time, fatigue of individual carbon fibers is revealed, as well as the dependence of interfacial debonding or delamination on the contact configuration between fibers and scratching asperities.