Stranger Than Friction

by Michael Mullaney on May 12, 2009

Professor Hanchen Huang recently published an intuitive and interesting journal paper on using nanostructures to create additional friction between two pieces of glass.

Dragging a pieces of glass across another piece of glass created some friction, to be sure. But coating the top piece of glass with a nanowire film, and then dragging it across the second piece of glass, Hanchen found it created 10 times more friction. That’s a lot of friction.

Here’s another way to think of it: Sliding a piece of paper across a desk is super easy, as the exercise creates only a negligible amount of friction.  But, imagine if you could coat the paper with something that resulted in the generation of 10 times more friction between the paper and the desk. It would make the act of sliding the paper a bit more difficult, as you’d have to use more muscles to compensate for the uptick in friction.

What’s neat is that there is no additional weight being put on top of the pieces of glass. The boost in friction is solely due to the presence of the nanowire. For those keeping score, Hanchen used SiC–SiO2 core–shell nanowire films. 

It’s a fascinating piece of fundamental research that will likely inform future studies into adhesion and possibly even energy production. I can see engineers and designers exploiting this knowledge of increased friction to boost the effectiveness of pedestrian power systems, which have been tested in Italy, Japan, and elsewhere.

Now that I’ve whet (pun intended) your curiosity, you may want to check out the full results of the study published in the journal Nanotechnology.

{ 1 comment }

Andrew 07.04.09 at 4:14 am

Interesting concept, however, you are making up for the increased friction by the heavier use of muscles. The increase in energy from friction is still causing a decrease of energy in the muscles. You would just be transferring energy.

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