Noncontact friction via capillary shear interaction at nanoscale

Nature Communications 6, Article number: 7359, 2015

Manhee Lee, Bongsu Kim, Jongwoo Kim & Wonho Jhe

Friction in an ambient condition involves highly nonlinear interactions of capillary force, induced by the capillary-condensed water nanobridges between contact or noncontact asperities of two sliding surfaces. Since the real contact area of sliding solids is much smaller than the apparent contact area, the nanobridges formed on the distant asperities can contribute significantly to the overall friction. Therefore, it is essential to understand how the water nanobridges mediate the ‘noncontact’ friction, which helps narrow the gap between our knowledge of friction on the microscopic and macroscopic scales. Here we show, by using noncontact dynamic force spectroscopy, the single capillary bridge generates noncontact friction via its shear interaction. The pinning–depinning dynamics of the nanobridge’s contact line produces nonviscous damping, which occurs even without normal load and dominates the capillary-induced hydrodynamic damping. The novel nanofriction mechanism may provide a deeper microscopic view of macroscopic friction in air where numerous asperities exist.