Adaptive wear-resistant coatings produced by physical vapor deposition (PVD) are a relatively new generation of coatings which are attracting attention in the development of nanostructured materials for extreme tribological applications. An excellent example of such extreme operating conditions is high performance machining of hard-to-cut materials. The adaptive characteristics of such coatings develop fully during interaction with the severe environment. Modern adaptive coatings could be regarded as hierarchical surface-engineered nanostructural materials. They exhibit dynamic hierarchy on two major structural scales: (a) nanoscale surface layers of protective tribofilms generated during friction and (b) an underlying nano/microscaled layer. The tribofilms are responsible for some critical nanoscale effects that strongly impact the wear resistance of adaptive coatings. A new direction in nanomaterial research is discussed: compositional and microstructural optimization of the dynamically regenerating nanoscaled tribofilms on the surface of the adaptive coatings during friction. In this review we demonstrate the correlation between the microstructure, physical, chemical and micromechanical properties of hard coatings in their dynamic interaction (adaptation) with environment and the involvement of complex natural processes associated with self-organization during friction. Major physical, chemical and mechanical characteristics of the adaptive coating, which play a significant role in its operating properties, such as enhanced mass transfer, and the ability of the layer to provide dissipation and accumulation of frictional energy during operation are presented as well. Strategies for adaptive nanostructural coating design that enhance beneficial natural processes are outlined. The coatings exhibit emergent behavior during operation when their improved features work as a whole. In this way, as higher-ordered systems, they achieve multifunctionality and high wear resistance under extreme tribological conditions.
Keywords: adaptive materials; dissipative structures; emergent behavior; extreme applications; hierarchical materials; multi-functionality; nano-laminates; nano-structured PVD coatings; nano-tribology; self-organization; surface engineering; surface phenomena.
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