Nanoscale friction: High energy losses in the vicinity of charge density waves

December 15, 2013

In collaboration with the University of Basel, an international team of researchers has observed a strong energy loss caused by frictional effects in the vicinity of charge density waves. This may have practical significance in the control of nanoscale friction. The results have been published in the scientific journal Nature Materials.

Friction is often seen as an adverse phenomenon that leads to wear and causes energy loss. Conversely, however, too little friction can be a disadvantage as well - for example, running on an icy surface or driving on a wet road.

An understanding of frictional effects is therefore of great importance - particularly in the field of nanotechnology, where friction has to be controlled at a nanoscale. A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Basel, the University of Warwick, the CNR Institute SPIN in Genoa and the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste has helped to give a better understanding of how friction works in microscopic dimensions.

In the experiment led by Prof. Dr. Ernst Meyer, Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Basel, the team vibrated the nanometer-sized tip of an atomic force microscope above the surface of a layered structure of niobium and selenium atoms. They selected this combination due to its unique electronic properties, and in particular the charge-density waves formed at extremely low temperatures. The electrons are no longer evenly distributed as in a metal, but instead form areas where the electron density fluctuates between a high and low range.

Energy losses in the vicinity of charge density waves

The researchers registered very high energy losses in the vicinity of these charge density waves between the surface and the tip of the atomic force microscope, even at relatively large distances of several atomic diameters. "The energy drop was so great, it was as if the tip had suddenly been caught in a viscous fluid," says Meyer.

The team observed this energy loss only at temperatures below 70° Kelvin (-203° C). Since charge density waves do not occur at higher temperatures, it interpreted this as evidence that frictional forces between the probe tip and charge density waves are the cause of the energy loss.

The theoretical model shows that the high energy loss results from a series of local phase shifts in the charge density waves. This newly discovered phenomenon may be of practical significance in the field of nanotechnology, particularly as the frictional effect can be modulated as a function of distance and voltage.
-end-
Original citation

Markus Langer, Marcin Kisiel, Rémy Pawlak, Franco Pellegrini, Giuseppe E. Santoro, Renato Buzio, Andrea Gerbi, Geetha Balakrishnan, Alexis Baratoff, Erio Tosatti and Ernst Meyer
Giant frictional dissipation peaks and charge-density-wave slips at the NbSe2 surface
Nature Materials, published online 15th December 2013 | doi: 10.1038/NMAT3836

University of Basel

Related Nanoscale Articles from Brightsurf:

Nanoscale machines convert light into work
Researchers have developed a tiny new machine that converts laser light into work.

Discovery will allow more sophisticated work at nanoscale
The movement of fluids through small capillaries and channels is crucial for processes ranging from blood flow through the brain to power generation and electronic cooling systems, but that movement often stops when the channel is smaller than 10 nanometers.

Valley-Hall nanoscale lasers
Topological photonics allows the creation of new states of light.

Dynamics of DNA replication revealed at the nanoscale
Using super-resolution technology a University of Technology Sydney led team has directly visualised the process of DNA replication in single human cells.

House cleaning on the nanoscale
A team of scientists at Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) has developed a novel mechanical cleaning method for surfaces on the nanoscale.

As electronics shrink to nanoscale, will they still be good as gold?
As circuit interconnects shrink to nanoscale, will the pressure caused by thermal expansion when current flows through wires cause gold to behave more like a liquid than a solid -- making nanoelectronics unreliable?

A joint venture at the nanoscale
Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory report fabricating and testing a superconducting nanowire device applicable to high-speed photon counting.

Bending diamond at the nanoscale
A team of Australian scientists has discovered diamond can be bent and deformed, at the nanoscale at least.

Creating a nanoscale on-off switch for heat
Researchers create a polymer thermal regulator that can quickly transform from a conductor to an insulator, and back again.

Magnetic tuning at the nanoscale
Physicists from the German research center Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) are working to produce engineered magnetic nanostructures and to tailor material properties at the nanoscale.

Read More: Nanoscale News and Nanoscale Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.