Synthesis, Characterization, and Evaluation of Ag-based Electrical Contact Materials

  • Datum: 08 juni, kl. 09.15
  • Plats: Room 2001, Ångströmlaboratoriet, Lägerhyddsvägen 1, Uppsala
  • Doktorand: Mao, Fang
  • Om avhandlingen
  • Arrangör: Oorganisk kemi
  • Kontaktperson: Mao, Fang
  • Disputation


Ag is a widely used electrical contact material due to its excellent electrical properties. The problems with Ag are that it is soft and has poor tribological properties (high friction and wear in Ag/Ag sliding contacts). For smart grid applications, friction and wear became increasingly important issues to be improved, due to much higher sliding frequency in the harsh operation environment. The aim of this thesis is to explore several different concepts to improve the properties of Ag electrical contacts for smart grid applications.

Bulk Ag-X (X=Al, Sn In) alloys were synthesized by melting of metals. An important result was that the presence of a hcp phase in the alloys significantly reduced friction coefficients and wear rates compared to Ag. This was explained by a sliding-induced reorientation of easy-shearing planes in the hexagonal structure. The Ag-In system showed the best combination of properties for potential use in future contact applications. 

This thesis has also demonstrated the strength of a combinatorial approach as a high-throughput method to rapidly screen Ag-based alloy coatings. It was also used for a rapid identification of optimal deposition parameters for reactive sputtering of a complex AgFeO2 oxide with narrow synthesis window. A new and rapid process was developed to grow low frictional AgI coatings and a novel designed microstructure of nanoporous Ag filled with AgI (n-porous Ag/AgI) using a solution chemical method was also explored. The AgI coatings exhibited low friction coefficient and acceptable contact resistance. However, under very harsh conditions, their lifetime is too short. The initial tribotests showed high friction coefficient of the n-porous Ag/AgI coating, indicating an issue regarding its mechanical integrity.

The use of graphene as a solid lubricant in sliding electrical contacts was investigated as well. The results show that graphene is an excellent solid lubricant in Ag-based contacts. Furthermore, the lubricating effect was found to be dependent on chemical composition of the counter surface. As an alternative lubricant, graphene oxide is cheaper and easier to produce. Preliminary tests with graphene oxide showed a similar frictional behavior as graphene suggesting a potential use of this material as lubricant in Ag contacts.