Simulations of Nanotribology with Realistic Probe Tip Models

M. Chandross, C. D. Lorenz, M. J. Stevens, G. S. Grest, Langmuir, 24, 1240 (2008).

We present the results of massively parallel molecular dynamics simulations aimed at understanding the nanotribological properties of alkylsilane self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) on amorphous silica. In contrast to studies with opposing flat plates, as found in the bulk of the simulation literature, we use a model system with a realistic AFM tip (radius of curvature ranging from 3 to 30 nm) in contact with a SAM-coated silica substrate. We compare the differences, in response between systems in which chains are fully physisorbed, fully chemisorbed, and systems with a mixture of the two. Our results demonstrate that the ubiquitous JKR and DMT models do not accurately describe the contact mechanics of these systems. In shear simulations, we find that the chain length has minimal effects on both the friction force and coefficient. The tip radius affects the friction force only (i.e., the coefficient is unchanged) by a constant shift in magnitude due to the increase in pull-off force with increasing radius. We also find that at extremely low loads, on the order of 10 nN, shearing from the tip causes damage to the physisorbed monolayers by removal of molecules.

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