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10 december 2018

Approved FOM programme 

Number 129.
Title Fundamental aspects of friction (FAF)
Executive organisational unit BUW
Programme management Prof.dr. A. Fasolino
Duration 2011-2016
Cost estimate M€ 2.7

This programme is focused on bridging the threefold gap between our understanding of frictional energy dissipation in an ideal, dry, single, elastic nanoscale contact and the practical situation for sliding bodies of a large ensemble of micrometer-scale, elasto-plastic contacts under dry or lubricated conditions.

Background, relevance and implementation
Friction originates from interactions between stationary or moving bodies on the sub-nanometer length scale of individual atoms and molecules. Interestingly, its consequences manifest them­selves on much larger scales, thus easily bridging orders of magnitude in scale, up to the micro­meter regime of a single, practical asperity and the macroscopic regime of large ensembles of such asperities on rough surfaces. Although an impressive body is available of phenomenological knowledge about friction, surface treatments, the application of special coatings and a wide variety of lubricants, most of this know-how rests on a purely empirical basis and lacks a thorough understanding of the microscopic dissipation phenomena that are responsible for the energy loss during sliding. Yet, it will be through precisely such advanced knowledge that completely new geometries and materials will be invented that will be at the core of the next generation of genuine breakthroughs in lubrication and other forms of friction reduction. In view of the large scale of continual loss of energy and resources in modern society that results from unwanted forms of friction and wear, the economic and societal impact of breakthroughs in this area of science and technology cannot be overestimated.

We target three major differences between 'idealized', nanoscale contacts and practical situations, namely (i) the difference between single and multiple contacts, (ii) the difference between purely elastic and elasto-plastic systems and (iii) the difference between unlubricated and lubricated contacts. In each case we will identify and investigate the generic physics involved in these differences, employing a dedicated mix of experimental, theoretical and computational expertise. Our objective is to reach genuine, fundamental understanding of the phenomenology of friction in (near)-practical situations, rooted in a solid description, with predictive power, of the underlying physics on all relevant length scales, ranging from the atomic scale to the collective response on the micrometer level. In the context of this pro­gramme we will explore various new strategies to control and lower friction. A key role in these is reserved for novel materials, graphene and boron nitride, and special nanopatterns.

When successful, this programme will not only provide improved understanding of the founda­tions of macroscopic friction, but it will also lead to novel tools for nano- and microtechnology where the importance of friction is magnified because of the high surface-to-volume ratio. Our ultimate goal is to make friction a design parameter, with a specified value, or absent, as desired.

The final evaluation of this programme will consist of a self-evaluation initiated by the programme leader and is foreseen for 2017.

Please find a research highlight that was achieved in 2013 within this FOM programme here.