Friction on demand: To slide or not to slide


Friction is an essential part of daily life: many of us start the day by sliding with our fingers over a smart phone screen. Without friction it would not be possible to walk or tie the laces of our shoes. At a more industrial level, friction in engines, bearings, power plants and many other applications is responsible for roughly one fifth of the world energy consumption. While everybody learns in school about the friction coefficient -the ratio of frictional to normal force- nobody can calculate it from first principles. This lack of understanding hampers our ability to manipulate, control or even switch friction from high to low and vice versa. Nonetheless, the potential impact of new manipulation strategies cannot be overestimated easily.

In this VENI project, I will explore and exploit the nano- and mesoscale fundamentals of frictional dissipation to design interfaces with controllable friction. In virtually all sliding interfaces, a myriad of contacting asperities collectively carry the normal force and generate friction. But what is the nature of frictional energy dissipation at a single contact point? How does the macroscopic friction coefficient emerge from the collective behavior of many contact points? What happens if these contact points are in equilibrium with surrounding vapor? In this VENI project I will show that these ill-understood aspects of friction can each be used to create friction on demand.

The unique facilities and expertise required to establish, study and scale up the proposed pathways towards controllable friction are available at the host institute, ARCNL. Furthermore, ARCNL is naturally linked to a potential user of the technology with large economic impact: ASML. The proposed research therefore simultaneously addresses fundamental questions and industrial needs, in line with the mission of the host institute.





Dr. B.A. Weber

Verbonden aan

NWO-institutenorganisatie, ARCNL - Advanced Research Center for Nanolithography


Dr. B.A. Weber


01/09/2019 tot 31/08/2022