The research objective of this Early Faculty Career Development (CAREER) award is to identify the factors that control adhesion and friction of rough surfaces at the molecular, nanoscopic and mesoscopic levels. This will be accomplished through experimental studies of model surfaces with controlled roughness and chemical properties. The surfaces will be formed by self-assembly of single layers of nanoparticles with known shape and size distributions onto smooth substrates. The adhesion and friction of these layers will be measured under well-controlled conditions with atomic force microscopy (AFM), with the "colloidal probe technique", and with the Surface Forces Apparatus (SFA), providing information at lateral length scales from a few nanometers to several hundred micrometers.
A successful completion of the project would significantly deepen the understanding of processes occurring between real (natural and engineering) surfaces, and provide means to (a) predict material responses at different conditions and (b) suggest surface modifications for more effective reduction of adhesion and friction. This multidisciplinary research will provide advanced research experience and training for graduate and undergraduate researchers in current issues and state-of-the-art characterization and preparation methods relevant for nanotechnology. The PI will also be involved in an Outreach program to the local high school, where the majority of the students are from minority groups or low-income background. This program addresses current problems with attraction and admission of students to college, and retention of incoming UML students.