Structural lubricity under ambient conditions
Baykara, Mehmet Z.
Nature Publishing Group
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Despite its fundamental importance, physical mechanisms that govern friction are poorly understood. While a state of ultra-low friction, termed structural lubricity, is expected for any clean, atomically flat interface consisting of two different materials with incommensurate structures, some associated predictions could only be quantitatively confirmed under ultra-high vacuum (UHV) conditions so far. Here, we report structurally lubric sliding under ambient conditions at mesoscopic (∼4,000-130,000 nm2) interfaces formed by gold islands on graphite. Ab initio calculations reveal that the gold-graphite interface is expected to remain largely free from contaminant molecules, leading to structurally lubric sliding. The experiments reported here demonstrate the potential for practical lubrication schemes for micro-and nano-electromechanical systems, which would mainly rely on an atomic-scale structural mismatch between the slider and substrate components, via the utilization of material systems featuring clean, atomically flat interfaces under ambient conditions.