Ultrahigh strength and shear-assisted separation of sliding nanocontacts studied in situ

Takaaki Sato, Zachary B. Milne, Masahiro Nomura, Naruo Sasaki, Robert W. Carpick, Hiroyuki Fujita

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The behavior of materials in sliding contact is challenging to determine since the interface is normally hidden from view. Using a custom microfabricated device, we conduct in situ, ultrahigh vacuum transmission electron microscope measurements of crystalline silver nanocontacts under combined tension and shear, permitting simultaneous observation of contact forces and contact width. While silver classically exhibits substantial sliding-induced plastic junction growth, the nanocontacts exhibit only limited plastic deformation despite high applied stresses. This difference arises from the nanocontacts’ high strength, as we find the von Mises stresses at yield points approach the ideal strength of silver. We attribute this to the nanocontacts’ nearly defect-free nature and small size. The contacts also separate unstably, with pull-off forces well below classical predictions for rupture under pure tension. This strongly indicates that shearing reduces nanoscale pull-off forces, predicted theoretically at the continuum level, but not directly observed before.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2551
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Dec
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • General
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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