The cooling and lubrication performance of graphene platelets in micro-machining environments

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Chu, Bryan
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Electronic thesis
Mechanical engineering
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The research presented in this thesis is aimed at investigating the use of graphene platelets (GPL) to address the challenges of excessive tool wear, reduced part quality, and high specific power consumption encountered in micro-machining processes. There are two viable methods of introducing GPL into micro-machining environments, viz., the embedded delivery method, where the platelets are embedded into the part being machined, and the external delivery method, where graphene is carried into the cutting zone by jetting or atomizing a carrier fluid.
The benefits of graphene are seen to also carry over to the external delivery method. The platelets provide improved cooling and lubrication performance to both environmentally-benign cutting fluids as well as to semi-synthetic cutting fluids used in micro-machining. The cutting performance is seen to be a function of the geometry (i.e., lateral size and thickness) and extent of oxygen-functionalization of the platelet. Ultrasonically exfoliated platelets (with 2–3 graphene layers and lowest in-solution characteristic lateral length of 120 nm) appear to be the most favorable for micro-machining applications. Even at the lowest concentration of 0.1 wt%, they are capable of providing a 51% reduction in the cutting temperature and a 25% reduction in the surface roughness value over that of the baseline semi-synthetic cutting fluid. For the thermally-reduced platelets (with 4–8 graphene layers and in-solution characteristic lateral length of 562–2780 nm), a concentration of 0.2 wt% appears to be optimal. An investigation into the impingement dynamics of the graphene-laden colloidal solutions on a heated substrate reveals that the most important criterion dictating their machining performance is their ability to form uniform, submicron thick films of the platelets upon evaporation of the carrier fluid. As such, the characterization of the residual platelet film left behind on a heated substrate may be an effective technique for evaluating different graphene colloidal solutions for cutting fluids applications in micromachining.
The study involving the embedded delivery method is focused on the micro-machining performance of hierarchical graphene composites. The results of this study show that the presence of graphene in the epoxy matrix improves the machinability of the composite. In general, the tool wear, cutting forces, surface roughness, and extent of delamination are all seen to be lower for the hierarchical composite when compared to the conventional two-phase glass fiber composite. These improvements are attributed to the fact that graphene platelets improve the thermal conductivity of the matrix, provide lubrication at the tool-chip interface and also improve the interface strength between the glass fibers and the matrix.
Graphene platelets have also recently been shown to reduce the aggressive chemical wear of diamond tools during the machining of transition metal alloys. However, the specific mechanisms responsible for this improvement are currently unknown. The modeling work presented in this thesis uses molecular dynamics techniques to shed light on the wear mitigation mechanisms that are active during the diamond cutting of steel when in the presence of graphene platelets. The dual mechanisms responsible for graphene-induced chemical wear mitigation are: 1) The formation of a physical barrier between the metal and tool atoms, preventing graphitization; and 2) The preferential transfer of carbon from the graphene platelet rather than from the diamond tool. The results of the simulations also provide new insight into the behavior of the 2D graphene platelets in the cutting zone, specifically illustrating the mechanisms of cleaving and interlayer sliding in graphene platelets under the high pressures in cutting zones.
May 2016
School of Engineering
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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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