Superlubricity of graphene nanoribbons on gold surfaces

Science  26 Feb 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6276, pp. 957-961
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad3569

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A golden opportunity for graphene

Reducing friction can limit wear and improve the energy efficiency of mechanical devices. Graphene is a promising lubricant because the friction between sheets is minuscule under certain circumstances. Kawai et al. show that the same ultra-low frictional properties extend to other surfaces. They find ultralow friction when dragging graphene nanoribbons across a gold surface using an atomic force microscope. This discovery sets up the potential for developing nanographene frictionless coatings.

Science, this issue p. 957


The state of vanishing friction known as superlubricity has important applications for energy saving and increasing the lifetime of devices. Superlubricity, as detected with atomic force microscopy, appears when sliding large graphite flakes or gold nanoclusters across surfaces, for example. However, the origin of the behavior is poorly understood because of the lack of a controllable nanocontact. We demonstrated the superlubricity of graphene nanoribbons when sliding on gold with a joint experimental and computational approach. The atomically well-defined contact allows us to trace the origin of superlubricity, unraveling the role played by ribbon size and elasticity, as well as by surface reconstruction. Our results pave the way to the scale-up of superlubricity and thus to the realization of frictionless coatings.

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