Structural superlubricity describes the state of greatly reduced friction between incommensurate atomically flat surfaces. Theory predicts that, in the superlubric state, the remaining friction sensitively depends on the exact structural configuration. In particular the friction of amorphous and crystalline structures for, otherwise, identical interfaces should be markedly different. Here, we measure friction of antimony nanoparticles on graphite as a function of temperature between 300 and 750 K. We observe a characteristic change of friction when passing the amorphous-crystalline phase transition above 420 K, which shows irreversibility upon cooling. The friction data is modeled with a combination of an area scaling law and a Prandtl-Tomlinson type temperature activation. We find that the characteristic scaling factor γ, which is a fingerprint of the structural state of the interface, is reduced by 20% when passing the phase transition. This validates the concept that structural superlubricity is determined by the effectiveness of atomic force canceling processes.
|Journal||Phys. Rev. Lett.|
|Publication status||Published - 24 Mar 2023|