Materials Science

Tubular friction at the nanoscale

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Science  27 Jun 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6191, pp. 1477-1478
DOI: 10.1126/science.344.6191.1477-h

When large-scale objects slide by each other, the amount of friction depends on their surface roughness and the contact area between them. At the nanoscale, though, different factors and forces can affect resistance to motion. Niguès et al. examine the response of multiwalled carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and boron nitride nanotubes (BNNTs) as their concentric cylindrical layers are pulled past each other. Whereas the semiconducting CNTs show almost no resistance to sliding motion, the BNNTs show viscouslike dissipation that is proportional to the contact area. The authors attribute this difference to bond character: Boron nitride forms ionic bonds, whereas the bonds in CNTs are purely covalent. Because they slide so much less slickly when they touch, the BNNTs could make highly efficient nanoscale shock absorbers.

Nat. Mater. 10.1038/nmat3985 (2014).

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