Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


ORNL Researchers Tune Friction in Ionic Solids at the Nanoscale


Friction impacts motion, hence the need to control friction forces. Currently, this is accomplished by mechanistic means or lubrication, but experiments conducted by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have uncovered a way of controlling friction on ionic surfaces at the nanoscale using electrical stimulation and ambient water vapor.

The research, which demonstrates a new physical effect, was undertaken at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, a DOE Office of Science User Facility at ORNL, and is published in the journal Scientific Reports.


Researchers used electricity and water to control friction levels on ionic surfaces at the nanoscale. As water forms around the nanoscale electrode, it allows for further penetration into the sample surface, thereby increasing or decreasing friction.

“Our finding can have a significant technological impact on applications for both macroscopic and nanoscale devices,” said lead author Evgheni Strelcov. “Decreasing or increasing nanoscale friction at will and thus controlling mechanical energy losses and wear of a microelectromechanical system’s parts has enormous implications for applied energy research and opens a new vista for fundamental science studies.”

By inducing a strong electric field using an atomic force microscope, the researchers were able to both increase and decrease friction between a moving nanoscale electrode and an ionic surface. They argue that the primary effect responsible for this behavior is condensation of moisture from the surrounding air into liquid that can then reduce friction.

Simultaneously, further strengthening the electric field results in the nanoscale electrode penetrating the surface and an increase of friction. This penetration is a new and unexpected effect, and the overall approach differs from other methods of friction control that often require adding a lubricant to the system instead of drawing on resources readily available in the immediate environment.

Additionally, unlike other electrochemical friction control practices, the new technique does not require an electrical current, which is associated with energy losses.

“Absence of current is highly beneficial from a power-saving perspective as it eliminates Joule heating and other parasitic power-consuming effects,” says Bobby Sumpter, who led the group developing associated theoretical models.

This work builds on extensive efforts at CNMS exploring the electrical manipulation of mechanical, electrochemical and ferroelectric properties of materials.

“We adopted this biased view on the nanoscale almost a decade ago,” said contributing author Sergei Kalinin. “Now we can proceed from observation to control of even such sublime phenomena as friction, and it is indeed very surprising and promising that we can both increase and decrease it.”
The paper can be accessed at:

The articles authors are Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Rajeev Kumar and Bobby Sumpter of the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences and Computer Science and Mathematics Division; Vera Bocharova of the Chemical Science Division; and Sergei Kalinin, Evgheni Strelcov and Alexander Tselev of the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences.

The work was supported by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The research was conducted at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, a DOE Office of Science User Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit .



Caption: Researchers used electricity and water to control friction levels on ionic surfaces at the nanoscale. As water forms around the nanoscale electrode, it allows for further penetration into the sample surface, thereby increasing or decreasing friction.

Chris Samoray | newswise

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease
23.03.2018 | Rice University

nachricht Sensitive grip
23.03.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Produktionstechnik und Automatisierung IPA

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>