Advanced technologies such as microelectromechancial systems (MEMS) devices, suffer considerably from friction and adhesion due to the large surface to volume ratios of their components, limiting their practical applications. The goal of this grant is to develop molecular based approaches for lubrication schemes to address these challenges and advance the fundamental understanding of lubrication in MEMS. Mixed monolayer films proffer the potential of providing modest friction modification, with integrated molecules that can also function as mobile lubricant phases under contact. In this grant we will explore how mixed monolayer systems can be exploited to solve key issues in the lubrication of MEMS devices through the precise control of surface interactions by systematically tuning surface chemical composition. These fundamental experimental studies are paired with molecular dynamics simulations of the contacts, as well as large scale tribometry measurements to allow us to explore these phenomena over a range of length scales (nm ? Ã¬m) and timescales (ps ? s). New techniques for exploring the asperity-asperity contacts that dominate microdevices, using tip enhanced Raman spectroscopy (TERS), will also be developed, where friction/adhesion and the corresponding local chemical changes at interfaces will be probed concomitantly.
If these studies are successful, the development of mixed monolayer schemes for MEMS devices may enable active device technologies to reach production status. The students working on this project (both graduate and undergraduate) will receive multidisciplinary training in materials science, engineering, and surface chemistry and physics, developing proficiency in multiple arenas, preparing them for the advanced technology workforce. Aspects of the work will also be incorporated as demonstrations for elementary school students in our Science and Engineering Open House. Collaborative interactions with the University of Florida and Sandia National Labs will also allow students to conduct research in both fundamental and applied settings, as well as both government and academic labs.