Lube-free but frictionless

Reducing friction in the sub-microscopic domain will be essential for many applications in nanotechnology. Now, Italian scientists have devised a lubricant-free solution to making nano friction free. But, here's the rub…you have to shake it. The team looked at the behaviour of the tip of an atomic force microscope in contact with a one-dimensional surface and discovered that they could overcome stick-slip friction, which is caused by the atoms in contact with each other rearranging to minimize their energy, by vibrating the system. Change the vibration and they can switch on and off this form of friction. The discovery could allow microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) to fulfil their early promise, until now stymied by stick-slip friction, or stiction.