The dynamics of cubo-octahedral nanodiamonds (NDs) with three different surface treatments and confined in aqueous environments between gold surfaces under shear and normal loading conditions have been characterized via molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. The treatments consisted of carboxyl (-COO-) or amino (-NH3 +) groups attached to the NDs, producing either negatively or positively charged NDs, respectively, and hydrogen-terminated surfaces producing neutral NDs. Simulations were performed in the presence and absence of induced image charges to explore the impact of electrostatic interactions on friction and surface deformation. Significant deformation of the gold surfaces was observed for negatively charged NDs placed between gold surfaces under external loads that were sufficient to displace water from the contact. Rolling and relatively high friction levels were also observed for the negatively charged NDs under the same conditions. In contrast, the neutral and positively charged NDs exhibited sliding behavior with only minor deformation of the gold surfaces. The results suggest that the size of the surface functional group plays a major role in determining whether NDs slide or roll on solid contacts. Higher friction levels were also observed in conjunction with induced image charges in the gold contacts. The results demonstrate how surface functionalization and surface-induced charges can work in combination to profoundly influence tribological performance.
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