Thermally activated phenomena in nanoscopic sliding friction

Enrico Gnecco, E. Riedo, R. Bennewitz, E. Meyer, H. Brune

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The role of thermal activation for a nanoasperity sliding on a flat surface with low speed is discussed. If the asperity slides in a vacuum, thermal vibrations may excite slipping from an equilibrium position to the next one along the sliding path. This effect is reduced if the velocity increases and leads to a logarithmic increase of friction with the sliding velocity. This is not always the case in a humid environment, where the formation of capillaries between tip and surface acts as an obstacle for thermally activated jumps. Depending on the wettability of the surface, different behaviors are observed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-174
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2006


  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Humidity dependence of friction
  • Thermal activation
  • Velocity dependence of friction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films


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