Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Gold surfaces repair themselves at room temperature

19.10.2011
Micromechanical systems and electric switches are based on smallest sliding contacts. They only work without loss of energy or material, if the surfaces are very smooth and without any defects.

So far, little has been understood about the underlying atomic-scale principles. In cooperation with researchers at the universities of Münster and Gießen as well as the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM in Freiburg, scientists at the INM – Leibniz Institute for New Materials were able to show that on atomic scale gold surfaces smoothen out by themselves at room temperature. In their publication in Physical Review Letters, they reveal that this effect disappears at low temperatures.

So far, it has been assumed that perfect sliding works the better the more rigid the surface is. On the atomic scale this could mean freezing lattice vibrations in the crystal at low temperatures below -100°C; where the atoms hardly move. Against expectation, smooth sliding on gold surfaces is not quite possible at these temperatures, but, however, at room temperature. The scientists explain this phenomenon with the diffusion of the gold atoms: If they are able to move freely on the surface, the gold atoms migrate into defects on the surfaces and remove holes and bumps. The diffusion effectively stops below -100°C.

"Imagine a record player whose needle made from rubber moves over a wax plate. If the wax is hard, wax pieces will be scratched out and, after a while, the needle pushes a pile of wax, which can only be surmounted by the needle after it bends strongly", explains Roland Bennewitz, Head of the Program Division "Nanotribology". If the temperature rises, the wax melts and the needle leaves no more traces in the wax. In fact, the liquid wax removes holes and bumps at once, and the needle slides uniformly through the wax.

A similar process occurs on the gold surfaces. Although they do not melt at room temperature, the diffusion of the gold atoms is so strong that smallest asperities on the nanoscale are removed at once. The regular structure of the surface is preserved.

Experiments were performed by atomic force microscopy (AFM). A thin needle slides forth and back on the gold surface. The measured signal shows how strong the needle bends in contact. On a crystalline surface, the needle "jumps" regularly from atom group to atom group – the scientists measure a stable so-called stick-slip pattern. In the event of defects, such as the accumulated gold atoms, the needle bends stronger and the stick-slip pattern will be broken.

In their research, the scientists also employed atomistic modelling on the computer. Here, they were able to reproduce the stick-slip pattern for the scanning of the gold surface with gold and nickel needles. With a 3D simulation, they were also able to show how gold atoms accumulate at low temperatures. The accumulated gold atoms are attracted by the needle like a liquid into a capillary.

Original publication:
Nitya Nand Gosvami, Michael Feldmann, Joël Peguiron, Michael Moseler, André Schirmeisen, and Roland Bennewitz:
„Ageing of a Microscopic Sliding Gold Contact at Low Temperatures“
Physical Review Letters 107, 144303 (2011)
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.107.144303
Contact:
Prof. Dr. Roland Bennewitz
INM - Leibniz-Institut für Neue Materialien gGmbH
Phone: (+49) 681 9300 213
Email: Roland.bennewitz@inm-gmbh.de
INM is focused on the research and development of materials – for today, tomorrow and the future. Chemists, physicists, biologists, materials and engineering scientists shape the work at INM. From molecule to pilot production, they follow the recurring questions: Which material properties are new, how can they be investigated and how can they be used in the future?

INM – Leibniz Institute for New Materials, situated in Saarbrücken/Germany, is an internationally leading centre for materials research. It is a scientific partner to national and international institutes and a provider of research and development for companies throughout the world. INM is an institute of the Scientific Association Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and employs around 190 collaborators. Its main research fields are Chemical Nanotechnology, Interface Materials, and Materials in Biology.

Dr. Carola Jung | idw
Further information:
http://www.inm-gmbh.de/
http://www.wgl.de/

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Flying: Efficiency thanks to Lightweight Air Nozzles
23.10.2017 | Technische Universität Chemnitz

nachricht Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer
20.10.2017 | Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Salmonella as a tumour medication

HZI researchers developed a bacterial strain that can be used in cancer therapy

Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Symposium on Driving Simulation

23.10.2017 | Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry

23.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Gamma rays will reach beyond the limits of light

23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The end of pneumonia? New vaccine offers hope

23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>