Moving furniture in the micro world

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Schematic representation of the development of moiré patterns under the influence of external forces and torques for a circular cluster interacting with a periodically structured surface. Areas where the particles of the cluster sit close to the bottom of the wells of the textured surface appear as dark colored areas in the respective moiré patterns. The thickness of the arrows represents the magnitude of the force and/or torque required to overcome the stiction between the cluster and the surface.

© Andrea Silva and Xin Cao

International research team led by physicists from Konstanz discovers the state of ultra-low static friction when rotating microscopic objects on crystalline surfaces.

When moving furniture, have you ever noticed that heavy objects can be moved more easily if they are rotated at the same time as you push them? Many people do this intuitively correctly. An international research team from Constance, Trieste and Milan (Italy) has now examined this phenomenon – the reduction of static friction through simultaneous rotation – on a microscopic level.

In their current study in the journal Physical Review X, the researchers found that the reduction in static friction of a microscopic object on a crystalline surface can be described by so-called moiré patterns. These occur when periodic patterns overlap. Based on this concept, the researchers predict an unusual state in which microscopic objects can be set in rotation using a minimal torque.

“Such a low-friction state is of great relevance, for example, for the manufacture and functioning of the smallest mechanical components – from the atomic to the microscale – and brings us closer to the realization of smaller and more efficient machines,” says Prof. Dr. Clemens Bechinger, head of studies and professor for experimental physics at the University of Konstanz.

How was it possible to experimentally investigate rotational friction with microscopically small contact surfaces? How exactly can a statement about the interaction of rotational friction and translational friction be derived from the Moiré patterns?

Summary of facts:
– Original publication: Xin Cao, Andrea Silva, Emanuele Panizon, Andrea Vanossi, Nicola Manini, Erio Tosatti, Clemens Bechinger (2022) Moiré-pattern evolution couples rotational and translational friction at crystalline interfaces. Physical Review X

– Note: The publication will appear in the journal Physical Review X on June 15, 2022. For a preprint of the article please contact kum@uni-konstanz.de.

– Prof. Dr. Clemens Bechinger is Professor of Experimental Physics in the Department of Physics at the University of Konstanz. dr Xin Cao is a postdoc in the Bechinger and Humboldt research group.

– Funding: German Research Foundation (DFG), Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, European Research Council (ERC), Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR)

Caption: Schematic representation of the development of moiré patterns under the influence of external forces and torques for a circular cluster interacting with a periodically structured surface. Areas where the particles of the cluster sit close to the bottom of the wells of the textured surface appear as dark colored areas in the respective moiré patterns. The thickness of the arrows represents the magnitude of the force and/or torque required to overcome the stiction between the cluster and the surface.
© Andrea Silva and Xin Cao

Original publication:

Xin Cao, Andrea Silva, Emanuele Panizon, Andrea Vanossi, Nicola Manini, Erio Tosatti, Clemens Bechinger (2022) Moiré-pattern evolution couples rotational and translational friction at crystalline interfaces. Physical Review X

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