The properties of butane (C4H10) lubricants confined between two approaching solids are investigated by a model that accounts for the curvature and elastic properties of the solid surfaces. We consider the linear n-butane and the branched isobutane. For the linear molecule, well defined molecular layers develop in the lubricant film when the width is of the order of a few atomic diameters. The branched isobutane forms more disordered structures which permit it to stay liquidlike at smaller surface separations. During squeezing the solvation forces show oscillations corresponding to the width of a molecule. At low speeds (<0.1 m/s) the last layers of isobutane are squeezed out before those of n-butane. Since the (interfacial) squeezing velocity in most practical applications is very low when the lubricant layer has molecular thickness, one expects n-butane to be a better boundary lubricant than isobutane. With n-butane possessing a slightly lower viscosity at high pressures, our result refutes the view that squeeze-out should be harder for higher viscosities; on the other hand our results are consistent with wear experiments in which n-butane were shown to protect steel surfaces better than isobutane.
Journal of Chemical Physics, 2006, Vol 125, Issue 1