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Heavier hydrogen on the atomic scale reduces friction
Date:11/2/2007

Scientists may be one step closer to understanding the atomic forces that cause friction, thanks to a recently published study by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Houston and the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory.

The research, led by Robert Carpick of the University of Pennsylvania, found a significant difference in friction exhibited by diamond surfaces that had been coated with different isotopes of hydrogen and then rubbed against a small carbon-coated tip.

Scientists lack a comprehensive model of friction on the nanoscale and only generally grasp its atomic-level causes, which range from local chemical reactions to electronic interactions to phononic, or vibrational, resonances.

To investigate the latter, Argonne scientist Anirudha Sumant and his colleagues used single-crystal diamond surfaces coated with layers of either atomic hydrogen or deuterium, a hydrogen atom with an extra neutron. The deuterium-terminated diamonds had lower friction forces because of their lower vibrational frequencies, an observation that Sumant attributed to that isotope's larger mass. They have also observed same trend on a silicon substrate, which is structurally similar to that of diamond.

Previous attempts to make hydrogen-terminated diamond surfaces relied on the use of plasmas, which tended to etch the material.

"When you're looking at such a small isotopic defect, an objectively tiny change in the mass, you have to be absolutely sure that there are no other complicating effects caused by chemical or electronic interferences or by small topographic variations," Sumant said. "The nanoscale roughening of the diamond surface from the ion bombardment during the hydrogen or deuterium termination process, even though it was at very low level, remained one of our principal concerns."

Sumant and his collaborators had looked at a number of other ways to try to avoid etchin
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Contact: Steve McGregor
smcgregor@anl.gov
630-252-5580
DOE/Argonne National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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