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Nanotechnologists reveal the frictional characteristics of atomically thin sheets
Date:4/1/2010

PHILADELPHIA - A team of nanotechnology researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University has used friction force microscopy to determine the nanoscale frictional characteristics of four atomically-thin materials, discovering a universal characteristic for these very different materials. Friction across these thin sheets increases as the number of atomic layers decreases, all the way down to one layer of atoms. This friction increase was surprising as there previously was no theory to predict this behavior.

The finding reveals a significant principle for these materials, which are widely used as solid lubricant films in critical engineering applications and are leading contenders for future nanoscale electronics.

Researchers found that friction progressively increased as the number of layers is reduced on all four materials, regardless of how different the materials may behave chemically, electronically or in bulk quantities. These measurements, supported by computer modeling, suggest that the trend arises from the fact that the thinner a material the more flexible it is, just as a single sheet of paper is much easier to bend than a thick piece of cardboard.

Robert Carpick, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics at Penn, and James Hone, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Columbia, led the project collaboratively.

The team tested the nanotribological, or nano-scale frictional properties, of graphene, molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), hexagonal-BN (h-BN) and niobium diselenide (NbSe2) down to single atomic sheets. The team literally shaved off atomic-scale amounts of each material onto a silicon oxide substrate and compared their findings to the bulk counterparts. Each material exhibited the same basic frictional behavior despite having electronic properties that vary from metallic to semiconducting to insulating.

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

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