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Concept: Friction


The search for new hard materials is often challenging, but strongly motivated by the vast application potential such materials hold. Ti3Au exhibits high hardness values (about four times those of pure Ti and most steel alloys), reduced coefficient of friction and wear rates, and biocompatibility, all of which are optimal traits for orthopedic, dental, and prosthetic applications. In addition, the ability of this compound to adhere to ceramic parts can reduce both the weight and the cost of medical components. The fourfold increase in the hardness of Ti3Au compared to other Ti-Au alloys and compounds can be attributed to the elevated valence electron density, the reduced bond length, and the pseudogap formation. Understanding the origin of hardness in this intermetallic compound provides an avenue toward designing superior biocompatible, hard materials.

Concepts: Electron, Chemical bond, Materials science, Alloy, Intermetallics, Steel, Friction, Hardness


SignificanceThe goal of this study was to use the Surface Forces Apparatus to examine the effects of slip-stick friction on cartilage surface morphology under different loading and sliding conditions. Different load and speed regimes were represented using friction maps that separated regimes of smooth and stick-slip sliding. The finding of this work is that damage generally occurs within the stick-slip regimes and is not directly related to the friction coefficient. Prolonged exposure of cartilage surfaces to stick-slip sliding resulted in a significant increase of surface roughness, indicative of severe morphological changes (damage) of the cartilage surfaces.

Concepts: Force, Classical mechanics, Friction, Road, Tribology, Roughness, Normal force, Stick-slip phenomenon


Friction characteristics with respect to surface topographic orientation were investigated using surfaces of different materials and fabricated with grooves of different scales. Scratching friction tests were conducted using a nano-indentation-scratching system with the tip motion parallel or perpendicular to the groove orientation. Similar friction anisotropy trends were observed for all the surfaces studied, which are (1) under a light load and for surfaces with narrow grooves, the tip motion parallel to the grooves offers higher friction coefficients than does that perpendicular to them, (2) otherwise, equal or lower friction coefficients are found under this motion. The influences of groove size relative to the diameter of the mating tip (as a representative asperity), surface contact stiffness, contact area, and the characteristic stiction length are discussed. The appearance of this friction anisotropy is independent of material; however, the boundary and the point of trend transition depend on material properties.

Concepts: Force, Materials science, Orientation, Classical mechanics, Surface, Young's modulus, Friction, Tribology


A novel procedure for biopolymer surface nanostructuring with defined surface roughness and pattern dimension is presented. The surface properties of sputtered platinum layers on the biocompatible polymer poly(l-lactic acid) (PLLA) are presented. The influence of thermal treatment on surface morphology and electrical resistance and Pt distribution in ca. 100 nm of altered surface is described. The thickness, roughness and morphology of Pt structures were determined by atomic force microscopy. Surface sheet resistance was studied by a two-point technique. It was the sequence of Pt layer sputtering followed by thermal treatment that dramatically changed the structure of the PLLA’s surface. Depending on the Pt thickness, the ripple-like and worm-like patterns appeared on the surface for thinner and thicker Pt layers, respectively. Electrokinetic analysis confirmed the Pt coverage of PLLA and the slightly different behaviour of non-annealed and annealed surfaces. The amount and distribution of platinum on the PLLA is significantly altered by thermal annealing.

Concepts: Layer, Differential geometry, Friction, Electrical resistance, Resistivity, Annealing, Sheet resistance, Skin effect


Stress-induced reactions at the sliding interface during relative movement are known to cause structural or chemical modifications in contacting materials. The nature of these modifications at the atomic level and formation of byproducts in an oil-free environment, however, remain poorly understood and pose uncertainties in predicting the tribological performance of the complete tribosystem. Here, we demonstrate that tribochemical reactions occur even in dry conditions when hydrogenated diamond-like carbon (H-DLC) surface is slid against two-dimensional (2D) molybdenum disulfide along with nanodiamonds in dry nitrogen atmosphere. Detailed experimental studies coupled with reactive molecular dynamics simulations reveal that at high contact pressures, diffusion of sulfur from the dissociated molybdenum disulfide led to amorphization of nanodiamond and subsequent transformation to onion-like carbon structures (OLCs). The in situ formation of OLCs at the sliding interface provide reduced contact area as well as incommensurate contact with respect to the H-DLC surface, thus enabling successful demonstration of superlubricity.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Hydrogen, Redox, Chemistry, Nitrogen, Chemical element, Graphite, Friction


The nature of interfacial water is critical in several natural processes, including the aggregation of lipids into the bilayer, protein folding, lubrication of synovial joints, and underwater gecko adhesion. The nanometer-thin water layer trapped between two surfaces has been identified to have properties that are very different from those of bulk water, but the molecular cause of such discrepancy is often undetermined. Using surface-sensitive sum frequency generation (SFG) spectroscopy, we discover a strongly coordinated water layer confined between two charged surfaces, formed by the adsorption of a cationic surfactant on the hydrophobic surfaces. By varying the adsorbed surfactant coverage and hence the surface charge density, we observe a progressively evolving water structure that minimizes the sliding friction only beyond the surfactant concentration needed for monolayer formation. At complete surfactant coverage, the strongly coordinated confined water results in hydration forces, sustains confinement and sliding pressures, and reduces dynamic friction. Observing SFG signals requires breakdown in centrosymmetry, and the SFG signal from two oppositely oriented surfactant monolayers cancels out due to symmetry. Surprisingly, we observe the SFG signal for the water confined between the two charged surfactant monolayers, suggesting that this interfacial water layer is noncentrosymmetric. The structure of molecules under confinement and its macroscopic manifestation on adhesion and friction have significance in many complicated interfacial processes prevalent in biology, chemistry, and engineering.

Concepts: Electric charge, Fundamental physics concepts, Density, Water, Surfactant, Nature, Friction, Tribology


Arthritis is a leading cause of disability, and when nonoperative methods have failed, a prosthetic implant is a cost-effective and clinically successful treatment. Metal-on-metal replacements are an attractive implant technology, a lower-wear alternative to metal-on-polyethylene devices. Relatively little is known about how sliding occurs in these implants, except that proteins play a critical role and that there is a tribological layer on the metal surface. We report evidence for graphitic material in the tribological layer in metal-on-metal hip replacements retrieved from patients. As graphite is a solid lubricant, its presence helps to explain why these components exhibit low wear and suggests methods of improving their performance; simultaneously, this raises the issue of the physiological effects of graphitic wear debris.

Concepts: Critical thinking, Avicenna, Hip replacement, Graphite, Friction, Tribology, Lubricant, Molybdenum disulfide


Nano-objects have been investigated for drug delivery, oil detection, contaminant removal, and tribology applications. In some applications, they are subjected to friction and deformation during contact with each other and their surfaces on which they slide. Experimental studies directly comparing local and global deformation are lacking. This research performs nanoindentation (local deformation) and compression tests (global deformation) with a nanoindenter (sharp tip and flat punch, respectively) on molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) multi-walled nanotubes (MWNTs), ~500 nm in diameter. Hardness of the MoS2 nanotube was similar to bulk and does not follow the “smaller is stronger” phenomenon as previously reported for other nano-objects. Tungsten disulfide (WS2) MWNTs, ~300 nm in diameter and carbon nanohorns (CNHs) 80-100 nm in diameter were of interest and also selected for compression studies. These studies aid in understanding the mechanisms involved during global deformation when nano-objects are introduced to reduce friction and wear. For compression, highest loads were required for WS2 nanotubes, then MoS2 nanotubes and CNHs to achieve the same displacement. This was due to the greater number of defects with the MoS2 nanotubes and the flexibility of the CNHs. Repeat compression tests of nano-objects were performed showing a hardening effect for all three nano-objects.

Concepts: Molybdenum, Graphite, Materials science, Sulfide, Friction, Tribology, Tungsten, Lubricant


Friction, wear and the associated energy dissipation are major challenges in all systems containing moving parts. Examples range from nanoelectromechanical systems over hip prosthesis to off-shore wind turbines. Bionic approaches have proven to be very successful in many engineering problems, while investigating the potential of a bio-inspired approach in creating morphological surface textures is a relatively new field of research. Here, we developed laser-created textures inspired by the scales found on the skin of snakes and certain lizards. We show that this bio-inspired surface morphology reduced dry sliding friction forces by more than 40%. In lubricated contacts the same morphology increased friction by a factor of three. Two different kinds of morphologies, one with completely overlapping scales and one with the scales arranged in individual rows, were chosen. In lubricated as well as unlubricated contacts, the surface texture with the scales in rows showed lower friction forces than the completely overlapping ones. We anticipate that these results could have significant impact in all dry sliding contacts, ranging from nanoelectromechanical and micro-positioning systems up to large-scale tribological contacts which cannot be lubricated, e.g. because they are employed in a vacuum environment.

Concepts: Mass, Force, Classical mechanics, Friction, Tribology, Texture, Normal force, Lubricant


Triboelectrification is an effect that is known to each and every one probably ever since the ancient Greek time, but it is usually taken as a negative effect and is avoided in many technologies. We have recently invented a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG) that is used to convert mechanical energy into electricity by a conjunction of triboelectrification and electrostatic induction. As for this power generation unit, in the inner circuit, a potential is created by the triboelectric effect due to the charge transfer between two thin organic/inorganic films that exhibit opposite tribo-polarity; in the outer circuit, electrons are driven to flow between two electrodes attached on the back sides of the films in order to balance the potential. Since the most useful materials for TENG are organic, it is also named organic nanogenerator, which is the first of using organic materials for harvesting mechanical energy. In this paper, we review the fundamentals of the TENG in the three basic operation modes: vertical contact-separation mode, in-plane sliding mode, and single-electrode mode. Ever since the first report of the TENG in January 2012, the output power density of TENG has been improved for five orders of magnitude within 12 months. The area power density reaches 313 W/m2, volume density reaches 490 kW/m3, and a conversion efficiency of ~60% has been demonstrated. The TENG can be applied to harvest all kind mechanical energy that is available but wasted in our daily life, such as human motion, walking, vibration, mechanical triggering, rotating tire, wind, flowing water and more. Alternatively, TENG can also be used as a self-powered sensor for actively detecting the static and dynamic processes arising from mechanical agitation using the voltage and current output signals of the TENG, respectively, with potential applications for touch pad and smart skin technologies. To enhance the performance of the TENG, besides the vast choices of materials in the triboelectric series, from polymer to metal and to fabric, the morphologies of their surfaces can be modified by physical techniques with the creation of pyramids-, square- or hemisphere-based micro- or nano-patterns, which are effective for enhancing the contact area and possibly the triboelectrification. The surfaces of the materials can be functionalized chemically using various molecules, nanotubes, nanowires or nanoparticles, in order to enhance the triboelectrific effect. The contact materials can be composites, such as embedding nanoparticles in polymer matrix, which may change not only the surface electrification, but also the permittivity of the materials so that they can be effective for electrostatic induction. Therefore, there are numerous ways for enhancing the performance of the TENG from the materials point of view. This gives an excellent opportunity for chemists and materials scientists to do extensive study both in the basic science and in practical applications. We anticipate that a much more enhancement of the output power density will be achieved in the next few years. The TENG is possible not only for self-powered portable electronics, but also as a new energy technology with a potential of contributing to the world energy in the near future.

Concepts: Electric charge, Electricity, Electrostatics, Friction, Static electricity, Electrical phenomena, Triboelectric effect, Electrophorus