Presenter: Matt Highland
Advisor(s): Dr. Jackie Krim
Author(s): M. Highland and J. Krim
Graduate Program: Physics

Title: Using Superconductivity to Study Friction at the Atomic Scale

Abstract: The field of nanotechnology has grown to prominence over the last decade. Researchers have been able to use the unique properties of matter on the nano-scale to create technologies not realizable with bulk materials, current achievements are small however compared to what could be achieved if nanotechnology could overcome certain fundamental limitations. Friction remains one of the key problems limiting the advancement of nanotechnology. As length scales decrease, frictional forces can become dominate and limit the use of meso-scale and nano-scale devices. This problem is quite challenging, owning to the fact that the origin of frictional forces at the atomic scale is still very poorly understood. The field of nanotribology seeks to understand the fundamental mechanisms by which friction occurs so as to some day be able to tune the tribological properties of surfaces. In our research we use quartz crystal microbalances and the unique properties of superconductors to understand how electronic contributions to friction occur in simple systems. We report here on recent observations of how the polarity of molecules in a solid sliding film affects the friction it experiences on a metal surface. Additionally comments are made about unexpected and interesting phenomenon including coupling of magnetic fields to the dynamics of a sliding layer and the potential use of friction to study superconductivity in low dimensional systems. This work is supported by NSF and AFOSR.