Review Article

Review : Measuring and Understanding Contact Area at the Nanoscale

[+] Author and Article Information
Tevis Jacobs

3700 O'Hara St. Benedum Hall, Room 538-E Pittsburgh, PA 15261

Ashlie Martini

5200 N. Lake Rd. Merced, CA 95343

1Corresponding author.

ASME doi:10.1115/1.4038130 History: Received September 07, 2016; Revised March 12, 2017


The size of the mechanical contact between nanoscale bodies that are pressed together under load has implications for adhesion, friction, and electrical and thermal transport at small scales. Yet, because the contact is buried between the two bodies, it is challenging to accurately measure the true contact area and to understand its dependence on load and material properties. Recent advancements in both experimental techniques and simulation methodologies have provided unprecedented insights into nanoscale contacts. This review provides a detailed look at the current understanding of nanocontacts, with specific focus on how to measure nanoscale contact area using experiments and simulations. Three different theories of contact at the nanoscale are presented: single-body mechanics; multi-point mechanics; and atomic accounting. Representative results from previous experimental and simulation studies are presented in the context of these theories. We describe the critical challenges and opportunities on the path to establishing a fundamental and actionable understanding of what it means to be "in contact" at the nanoscale.

Copyright (c) 2017 by ASME
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