The tribological issues associated with silicon-based microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) are well known. A popular solution to improve the tribological behavior is to apply different kinds of thin films. One film material, shown to have favorable properties in specialty applications, and which may also be suited for MEMS, is titanium carbide (TiC).
This paper examines the microfrictional properties of titanium carbide surfaces with two surface roughnesses sliding against polished 2 mm diameter TiC counterbodies. A comparison of the microfrictional behavior is made with various other surfaces sliding against the same material. Results indicate that the microfriction of smooth TiC sliding against a smooth TiC surface is low and similar to silicon or TiC sliding against a hydrophobic self-assembled monolayer. However, friction increases when the polished TiC ball slides against a rough TiC surface. Experiments at various relative humidities show that friction increases with increase in the relative humidity for two smooth TiC surfaces sliding against one another, but is reduced at higher relative humidity if the surface of one of the sliding partners is considerably rough.
This microfrictional study shows that TiC is well suited for microtribological applications. However, for optimal performance, the surface characteristics need to be tailored to the operating conditions.