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'Heftier' atoms reduce friction at the nanoscale, study led by Penn researcher reveals
Date:11/1/2007

ncy. The lighter an atom, the faster the vibrations and thus the faster the dissipation of energy from the contact in the sample. Keeping the atoms chemically similar avoided any changes arising from chemical bonding.

The Penn findings provide a better understanding of the nature of friction, which lacks a comprehensive model at the fundamental level.

We know how some properties -- adhesion, roughness and material stiffness for example -- contribute to friction over several length scales, but this work reveals how truly atomic-scale phenomena can and do play a meaningful role, Matthew Brukman, a contributor to the research, said.

Industry has long been concerned with ways to reduce friction between objects, both to maintain the energy of the system as well as to reduce heat-generation and wear, which can weaken machinery and materials to the breaking point. The authors note that improved friction models can be used for the opposite effect; makers of some mechanical components such as automobile clutches may be interested in techniques to increase friction without changing the wear or adhesion of materials.

Even in the absence of rough edges or wear between sliding bodies, friction between the atoms at the surface causes vibrations which dissipate energy, but the exact mechanisms of this process remain unresolved. Scientists continue to explore the details of friction, and other open questions include the effects of environmental variables such as temperature and atmosphere.


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Contact: Jordan Reese
jreese@upenn.edu
215-573-6604
University of Pennsylvania
Source:Eurekalert

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