Graphene, a modified form of carbon, offers versatile potential for use in coating machine components and in the field of electronic switches. An international team of researchers led by physicists at the University of Basel have been studying the lubricity of this material on the nanometer scale. Since it produces almost no friction at all, it could drastically reduce energy loss in machines when used as a coating, as the researchers report in the journal Science.
In future, graphene could be used as an extremely thin coating, resulting in almost zero energy loss between mechanical parts. This is based on the exceptionally high lubricity – or so-called superlubricity – of modified carbon in the form of graphene. Applying this property to mechanical and electromechanical devices would not only improve energy efficiency but also considerably extend the service life of the equipment.
Fathoming out the causes of the lubricant behavior
An international community of physicists have studied the above-average lubricity of graphene using a two-pronged approach combining experimentation and computation. To do this, they anchored two-dimensional strips of carbon atoms – so-called graphene nanoribbons – to a sharp tip and dragged them across a gold surface.
Computer-based calculations were used to investigate the interactions between the surfaces as they moved across one another. Using this approach, the research team led by Prof. Ernst Meyer at the University of Basel is hoping to fathom out the causes of superlubricity; until now, little research has been carried out in this area.
By studying the graphene ribbons, the researchers hope to learn about more than just the slip behavior. Measuring the mechanical properties of the carbon-based material also makes sense because it offers excellent potential for a whole range of applications in the field of coatings and micromechanical switches. In future, even electronic switches could be replaced by nanomechanical switches, which would use less energy for switching on and off than conventional transistors.
The experiments revealed almost perfect, frictionless movement. It is possible to move graphene ribbons with a length of 5 to 50 nanometers using extremely small forces (2 to 200 piconewtons). There is a high degree of consistency between the experimental observations and the computer simulation.
A discrepancy between the model and reality appears only at greater distances (five nanometers or more) between the measuring tip and the gold surface. This is probably because the edges of the graphene nanoribbons are saturated with hydrogen, which was not accounted for in the simulations.
“Our results help us to better understand the manipulation of chemicals at the nano level and pave the way for creating frictionless coatings,” write the researchers.
Researchers from the Empa were involved in the project as well.
Shigeki Kawai, Andrea Benassi, Enrico Gnecco, Hajo Söde, Rémy Pawlak, Xinliang Feng, Klaus Müllen, Daniele Passerone, Carlo A. Pignedoli, Pascal Ruffieux, Roman Fasel and Ernst Meyer
Superlubricity of Graphene Nanoribbons on Gold Surfaces
Science (2016), doi: 10.1126/science.aad3569
Prof. Ernst Meyer, University of Basel, Department of Physics, tel. +41 61 267 37 24, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reto Caluori | Universität Basel
Significantly more productivity in USP lasers
06.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT
Shape matters when light meets atom
05.12.2016 | Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
06.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
06.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
06.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering