Plastic deformation in tribological interfaces
The emerging field of Computational Materials Tribology is garnering more and more attention. On one hand, the perspective of a materials scientist into sliding contacts may provide completely new insights into the microstructural evolution during sliding. On the other hand, ever-increasing computational power allows us to model systems of engineering relevance at atomic resolution. For Computational Materials Tribology to function, it is usually necessary that a physicist, a chemist, or a materials scientist (but ideally an amalgam of all three) leave their respective ivory towers of pure science and take several steps towards real engineering problems, which are frequently located within the realm of mechanical engineering. At the beginning of the process lies a design or optimization problem of scientific or engineering interest. By abstracting a real sliding interface to the world of micro- or even nanoscale modeling, it is possible to carry out a broad parametric study of computational experiments on a virtual system. Successive distillation can usually reduce the large amounts of resulting data to simple deformation mechanism maps depending on alloy composition, mechanical loading conditions, temperature, sliding speed, etc., which are of direct utility to surface engineers when designing or optimizing safe and long-lasting mechanical systems.