Capillary adhesion due to water adsorption from the air can contribute to friction, especially for smooth interfaces in humid environments. We show that for multiasperity (naturally oxidized) Si-on-Si interfaces, the friction coefficient goes through a maximum as a function of relative humidity. An adhesion model based on the boundary element method that takes the roughness of the interfaces into account reproduces this nonmonotonic behavior very well. Remarkably, we find the dry friction to be significantly lower than the lubricated friction with macroscopic amounts of water present. The difference is attributed to the hydrogen-bonding network across the interface. Accordingly, the lubricated friction increases significantly if the water is replaced by heavy water (D2O) with stronger hydrogen bonding.

Phys. Rev. Lett.
Contact Dynamics

Peng, L., Hsia, F.-C., Woutersen, S., Bonn, M., Weber, B., & Bonn, D. (2022). Nonmonotonic Friction due to Water Capillary Adhesion and Hydrogen Bonding at Multiasperity Interfaces. Phys. Rev. Lett., 129(25), 256101: 1–6. doi:10.1103/physrevlett.129.256101