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.
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.
Cement as a climate killer: Using industrial residues to produce carbon neutral alternatives
20.05.2019 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Discovering unusual structures from exception using big data and machine learning techniques
17.05.2019 | Science China Press
Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...
With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.
Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...
'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.
However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...
Working group led by physicist Professor Ulrich Nowak at the University of Konstanz, in collaboration with a team of physicists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, demonstrates how skyrmions can be used for the computer concepts of the future
When it comes to performing a calculation destined to arrive at an exact result, humans are hopelessly inferior to the computer. In other areas, humans are...
Scientists develop a molecular recording tool that enables in vivo lineage tracing of embryonic cells
The beginning of new life starts with a fascinating process: A single cell gives rise to progenitor cells that eventually differentiate into the three germ...
29.04.2019 | Event News
17.04.2019 | Event News
15.04.2019 | Event News
20.05.2019 | Materials Sciences
20.05.2019 | Life Sciences
20.05.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering