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Nanotechnology. 2018 Feb 23;29(8):085703. doi: 10.1088/1361-6528/aaa2aa.

Mechanical characterization of diesel soot nanoparticles: in situ compression in a transmission electron microscope and simulations.

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Ecole Centrale de Lyon, LTDS, 36 Avenue Guy de Collongue F-69134, Ecully, France.


Incomplete fuel burning inside an internal combustion engine results in the creation of soot in the form of nanoparticles. Some of these soot nanoparticles (SNP) become adsorbed into the lubricating oil film present on the cylinder walls, which adversely affects the tribological performance of the lubricant. In order to better understand the mechanisms underlying the wear caused by SNPs, it is important to understand the behavior of SNPs and to characterize potential changes in their mechanical properties (e.g. hardness) caused by (or during) mechanical stress. In this study, the behavior of individual SNPs originating from diesel engines was studied under compression. The experiments were performed in a transmission electron microscope using a nanoindentation device. The nanoparticles exhibited elasto-plastic behavior in response to consecutive compression cycles. From the experimental data, the Young's modulus and hardness of the SNPs were calculated. The Young's modulus and hardness of the nanoparticles increased with the number of compression cycles. Using an electron energy loss spectroscopy technique, it was shown that the sp2/sp3 ratio within the compressed nanoparticle decreases, which is suggested to be the cause of the increase in elasticity and hardness. In order to corroborate the experimental findings, molecular dynamics simulations of a model SNP were performed. The SNP model was constructed using carbon and hydrogen atoms with morphology and composition comparable to those observed in the experiment. The model SNP was subjected to repeated compressions between two virtual rigid walls. During the simulation, the nanoparticle exhibited elasto-plastic behavior like that in the experiments. The results of the simulations confirm that the increase in the elastic modulus and hardness is associated with a decrease in the sp2/sp3 ratio.


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