Available Technologies

Browse Penn-owned technologies available for licensing.

Simultaneous imaging and friction measurement with in-situ tribometer


Different instruments are needed to study the interaction of contact surfaces at different length scales.  Tribometers measure the coefficient of friction, but they cannot image the micro or nano contact area during a sliding test. Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) techniques can image surfaces at smaller scales, but they cannot provide the tribometer’s coefficient of friction measurements for a multi-asperity contact geometry. Removing a sample to change instruments can expose the region of interest to environmental contaminants and can lead to changes in the physical and chemical properties of the sliding zone.


The new device combines a tribometer’s ability to measure coefficient of friction with an AFM probe’s ability to directly image the topology of surfaces with nanometer resolution. In this way, the macro and nano scale interactions can be studied simultaneously, with the same device, without the need to change instruments or expose the sample to the environment. Other devices that seek to provide the same capabilities use laser inferometry which does not provide accurate three-dimensional topographic information and also does not work well with optically transparent materials. The new device, however, directly images the contact area using an AFM technique, providing resolution on the order of 10 nm.


  • More accurate characterization by taking measurements in situ rather than changing instruments.
  • Operation at temperatures up to 250C and pressures up to 1 GPa provides durability for real-world applications
  • Any probe and substrate material can be used which allows characterization of a wide variety of material pairs
  • Provides new insight for the study of lubricated tribological components, performance characterization of a wide variety of lubricants and additives, and the analysis of other mechanical components where understanding the in-situ interactions is essential


Stage of Development:

Prototype device 

Intellectual Property:

Patent application filed

Desired Partnerships:

  • License
  • Sponsored research

Patent Information:


Docket # 15-7279

For Information, Contact:

Pamela Beatrice Director, SEAS/SAS Licensing Group
University of Pennsylvania