Hindered rolling and friction anisotropy in supported carbon nanotubes

Marcel Lucas, Xiaohua Zhang, Ismael Palaci, Christian Klinke, Erio Tosatti, Elisa Riedo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are well known for their exceptional thermal, mechanical and electrical properties. For many CNT applications it is of the foremost importance to know their frictional properties. However, very little is known about the frictional forces between an individual nanotube and a substrate or tip. Here, we present a combined theoretical and experimental study of the frictional forces encountered by a nanosize tip sliding on top of a supported multiwall CNT along a direction parallel or transverse to the CNT axis. Surprisingly, we find a higher friction coefficient in the transverse direction compared with the parallel direction. This behaviour is explained by a simulation showing that transverse friction elicits a soft hindered rolling of the tube and a frictional dissipation that is absent, or partially absent for chiral CNTs, when the tip slides parallel to the CNT axis. Our findings can help in developing better strategies for large-scale CNT assembling and sorting on a surface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)876-881
Number of pages6
JournalNature Materials
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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