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Exploring structural phase transitions in nanofriction

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Understanding, and controlling, nanoscale friction are among top priorities in nanoscience and technology, where moving elements are increasingly important. Designing new mechanisms capable of tuning friction, to be employed in addition to traditional means such as lubrication, surface coating, patterning and vibrations, is of great interest both in physics and for nanotechnology applications. Based on molecular dynamics simulations, we present some examples of modeling studies aimed at improving this state of affairs. First, we show that the occurrence of a structural phase transition in a sliding body, can induce considerable changes in its tribological response. This finding opens the possibility to tailor friction by some external field, such as a stress field or an electric field, capable to promote or inhibit the structural phase transition. On a different note, we show that much could be learnt about nanofriction by exploiting the potentiality of cold ion traps. By sliding, through an electric field, the trapped ion chains over a laser-generated corrugated potential, fundamental tribological issues such as the superlubric Aubry transition of incommensurate interfaces can be addressed.

This talk is part of the Physics and Chemistry of Solids Group series.

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