Effects of contact pressure, molecular weight, and supplier on the wear behavior and transfer film of polyetheretherketone (PEEK)
Polyetheretherketone (PEEK) is a designation given to materials of the polyaryletherketone family having a characteristic distribution of ether and ketone groups in the polymer backbone. PEEK materials have high strength and chemical resistance as well as very high melting points and glass transition temperatures. Because of this combination of properties, PEEK materials find use for wear application in extreme environments where they provide a light-weight and corrosion resistant bearing material that often does not require lubrication. This study focused on determining the effects of supplier and molecular weight on the wear of particular PEEK materials, in addition to the effect of contact pressure. Multidirectional wear testingwas performed on four PEEK materials. The materials were obtained from two different suppliers, and two molecular weights were chosen for each supplier. Extensive analysis of transfer films produced during wear testing was performed using optical microscopy. White light profilometry was used to measure transfer film thickness in order to calculate a mean film thickness for given experimental conditions. Dynamic mechanical analysis, as well as gel permeation chromatography and differential scanning calorimetry were used to characterize each material's viscoelastic behavior, molecular weight, and crystallinity, respectively. It was found that the wear of PEEK materials was significantly affected by both contact pressure and molecular weight, but not by supplier. However, an interaction was observed that showed the low molecular weight material from one of the suppliers was more vulnerable to wear at high contact pressures than the other three materials. Results of transfer film analysis showed that film thickness was greatest in locations where pin sliding direction was perpendicular to the counterface roughness direction, but that mean transfer film thickness did not correlate to wear amounts. This work is significant because it highlights the fact that tribologically relevant polymers, such as PEEK materials, vary greatly in terms of their polymer morphology and processing history, and this variation must be recognized by investigators when reporting wear data.