Friction originates at the area of real contact which depends on the (changing) surface topography. Observing and measuring the area of real contact at multi-asperity interfaces is difficult, making it challenging to quantitatively study the interplay between the frictional force and surface topography. In this paper, we systematically manipulate surface topography and use a fluorescence microscopy-based contact visualization technique to reveal this interplay. We demonstrate good agreement between elastoplastic boundary element method contact calculations and experimental visualization of the area of real contact. While the area of real contact and thus contact pressure could be varied by a factor of 4 through control of the surface topography, this had only a modest effect on the coefficient of friction (CoF). We do find a small but systematic increase in the proportionality constant between frictional force and normal force (CoF) with decreasing surface roughness. The observation that smoother surfaces have a greater CoF is due to capillary adhesion between the two surfaces. We quantitatively model this behavior using a simple capillary adhesion model without adjustable parameters. Our results provide quantitative insights into the interplay between contact mechanics, friction, and capillary adhesion. A predictive understanding of this interplay is essential to demanding applications such as precision positioning.

Phys. Rev. Res.
Nanophotochemistry-Former Group

Hsia, F.-C., Franklin, S., Audebert, P., Brouwer, A., Bonn, D., & Weber, B. (2021). Rougher is more slippery: How adhesive friction decreases with increasing surface roughness due to the suppression of capillary adhesion. Phys. Rev. Res., 3(4), 043204: 1–9. doi:10.1103/physrevresearch.3.043204