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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.
Stage of Development:
Patent application filed
Docket # 15-7279