Friction between two surfaces is due to nano- and micro-asperities at the interface that establish true contact and are responsible for the energy dissipation. To understand the friction mechanism, often single-asperity model experiments are conducted in atomic-force microscopes. Here, we show that the conventional interpretation of the typical results of such experiments, based on a simple mass-spring model, hides a fundamental contradiction. Via an estimate of the order of magnitude of the dissipative forces required to produce atomic-scale patterns in the stick-slip motion of a frictional nano-contact, we find that the energy dissipation must be dominated by a very small, highly dynamic mass at the very end of the asperity. Our conclusion casts new light on the behavior of sliding surfaces and invites us to speculate about new ways to control friction by manipulation of the contact geometry.

Springer Nature
Tribol. Lett.
Nanolayers-Former Group

van Baarle, D. W., Krylov, S., Beck, M. E. S., & Frenken, J. (2019). On the non-trivial origin of atomic-scale patterns in friction force Microscopy. Tribol. Lett., 67(15). doi:10.1007/s11249-018-1127-6