Frictional transition from superlubric islands to pinned monolayers.

Nature nanotechnology

PubMedID: 26006001

Pierno M, Bruschi L, Mistura G, Paolicelli G, di Bona A, Valeri S, Guerra R, Vanossi A, Tosatti E. Frictional transition from superlubric islands to pinned monolayers. Nat Nanotechnol. 2015;.
The inertial sliding of physisorbed submonolayer islands on crystal surfaces contains unexpected information on the exceptionally smooth sliding state associated with incommensurate superlubricity and on the mechanisms of its disappearance. Here, in a joint quartz crystal microbalance and molecular dynamics simulation case study of Xe on Cu(111), we show how superlubricity emerges in the large size limit of naturally incommensurate Xe islands. As coverage approaches a full monolayer, theory also predicts an abrupt adhesion-driven two-dimensional density compression on the order of several per cent, implying a hysteretic jump from superlubric free islands to a pressurized commensurate immobile monolayer. This scenario is fully supported by the quartz crystal microbalance data, which show remarkably large slip times with increasing submonolayer coverage, signalling superlubricity, followed by a dramatic drop to zero for the dense commensurate monolayer. Careful analysis of this variety of island sliding phenomena will be essential in future applications of friction at crystal/adsorbate interfaces.