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Measuring and Understanding Contact Area at the Nanoscale: A Review

Jacobs, Tevis D. B. and Martini, Ashlie (2017) Measuring and Understanding Contact Area at the Nanoscale: A Review. Applied Mechanics Reviews, 69. 060802. ISSN 0003-6900

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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. Experimental methods for determining contact area are discussed, including direct measurements using in situ electron microscopy, as well as indirect methods based on measurements of contact resistance, contact stiffness, lateral forces, and topography. Simulation techniques are also discussed, including the types of nanocontact modeling that has been performed and the various methods for extracting the magnitude of the contact area from a simulation. To describe and predict contact area, three different theories of nanoscale contact are reviewed: single-contact continuum mechanics; multi-contact continuum mechanics; and atomistic accounting. Representative results from nanoscale experimental and simulation investigations are presented in the context of these theories. Finally, the critical challenges are described, as well as the opportunities on the path to establishing a fundamental and actionable understanding of what it means to be “in contact” at the nanoscale.


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Item Type: Article
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Jacobs, Tevis D. B.tjacobs@pitt.edutjacobs0000-0001-8576-914X
Date: 2 November 2017
Date Type: Publication
Journal or Publication Title: Applied Mechanics Reviews
Volume: 69
Publisher: American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
Page Range: 060802
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1115/1.4038130
Schools and Programs: Swanson School of Engineering > Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science
Refereed: No
ISSN: 0003-6900
Official URL: http://appliedmechanicsreviews.asmedigitalcollecti...
Article Type: Review
Date Deposited: 16 Aug 2018 14:10
Last Modified: 10 Oct 2018 16:32


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