The Effect of Atomic-Scale Roughness on the Adhesion of Nanoscale Asperities: A Combined Simulation and Experimental Investigation

TDB Jacobs and KE Ryan and PL Keating and DS Grierson and JA Lefever and KT Turner and JA Harrison and RW Carpick, TRIBOLOGY LETTERS, 50, 81-93 (2013).

DOI: 10.1007/s11249-012-0097-3

The effect of atomic-scale roughness on adhesion between carbon-based materials is examined by both simulations and experimental techniques. Nanoscale asperities composed of either diamond-like carbon or ultrananocrystalline diamond are brought into contact and then separated from diamond surfaces using both molecular dynamics simulations and in situ transmission electron microscope (TEM)-based nanoindentation. Both techniques allow for characterization of the roughness of the sharp nanoasperities immediately before and after contact down to the subnanometer scale. The root mean square roughness for the simulated tips spanned 0.03 nm (atomic corrugation) to 0.12 nm; for the experimental tips, the range was 0.18-1.58 nm. Over the tested range of roughness, the measured work of adhesion was found to decrease by more than an order of magnitude as the roughness increased. The dependence of adhesion upon roughness was accurately described using a simple analytical model. This combination of simulation and experimental methodologies allows for an exploration of an unprecedented range of tip sizes and length scales for roughness, while also verifying consistency of the results between the techniques. Collectively, these results demonstrate the high sensitivity of adhesion to interfacial roughness down to the atomic limit. Furthermore, they indicate that care must be taken when attempting to extract work of adhesion values from experimental measurements of adhesion forces.

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