When two surfaces achieve contact, then contact phenomena such as adhesion, friction and wear can occur, which are of great interest in many disciplines, including physics, physical chemistry, material chemistry, and life and health sciences. These phenomena are largely determined by the nature and magnitude of the surface forces such as van der Waals, capillary and hydration forces. Moreover these forces are length-dependent, and therefore when the system scales down, their contribution scales up, dominating the interaction between the surfaces.
A goal of my PhD work was to investigate fundamental contact phenomena in terms of the surface forces that regulate their properties. The primary tool applied in this PhD thesis work has been the atomic force microscopy (AFM), which (with all of its sub-techniques) offers the possibility to study such forces with high resolution virtually between all types of materials and intervening media. Therefore, in this work it was possible to study the long ranged interactions presented in air between different industrially relevant materials and how these interactions are shielded when the systems are immersed in an ionic liquid.
Also investigated was the influence of microstructure on the tribological properties of metal alloys, where their good tribological properties were related with the vanadium and nitrogen contents for a FeCrVN tool alloy and with the chromium content for a biomedical CoCrMo alloy. Moreover, the effect of the intervening media can significantly affect the surface properties, and when the biomedical CoCrMo alloy was immersed in phosphate buffer saline solution (PBS), repulsive hydration forces decreased the friction coefficient and contact adhesion. On the other hand, with the immersion of the FeCrVN tool alloy in the NaCl solution, small particles displaying low adhesion were generated in specific regions on the surface with low chromium content. These particles are assumed to be related to a prepitting corrosion event in the tool alloy.
The mechanical properties of stratum corneum (SC), which is the outermost layer of the skin, were also studied in this work. The SC presents a highly elastic, but stiff surface where the mechanical properties depend on the nanoscale. A novel probe has been designed with a single hair fibre in order to understand how the skin deforms locally in response to the interaction with such a fibre probe. This study revealed that is mostly the lateral scale of the deformation which determines the mechanical properties of the SC.
Finally, important achievements in this work are the developments of two new techniques - tribological property mapping and the Hybrid method for torsional spring constant evaluation. Tribological property mapping is an AFM technique that provides friction coefficient and contact adhesion maps with information attributed to the surface microstructure. The Hybrid method is an approach that was originally required to obtain the torsional spring constants for rigid beam shaped cantilevers, which could not be previously determined from their power torsional thermal spectra (conventional method). However, the applicability is shown to be general and this simple method can be used to obtain torsional spring constants for any type of beam shape cantilever.
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2014. , xviii, 78 p.