News Release

New research from Pusan National University sheds light on nature of friction in multi-layered graphene

New study provides insights into how surface structures influence nanoscale friction in this promising 2D material

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Pusan National University

New Research from Pusan National University Sheds Light on Nature of Friction in Multi-layered Graphene

image: New study provides insights into how surface structures influence nanoscale friction in this promising 2D material view more 

Credit: Pusan National University

Graphene, which consists of a single layer of carbon atoms, is the poster child of carbon-based 2D nanomaterials. It has many attractive properties that could be exploited in next-generation electronics, optics, catalysis, biomedicine, and many other fields. Recently, many scientists have focused on chemical vapor deposition (CVD) as a cost-efficient technique for producing larger graphene surfaces in lieu of the well-established method of mechanical exfoliation, which can only produce small graphene islands.

However, CVD graphene contains a fair number of surface structures and defects, including wrinkles, crystal grain boundaries, and surface contamination. Because graphene is so thin, even minor surface irregularities can greatly affect its properties, making its surface-property relationships an important area of research. While studies on this topic have been conducted extensively for single-layer CVD graphene, few have focused on how surface structures affect the nanoscale friction characteristics of multi-layered CVD graphene.

Recently, a team of researchers from Pusan National University, Korea, led by Assistant Professor Songkil Kim tackled this knowledge gap. “Correlating surface characteristics with a material’s properties is really important,” explains Dr. Kim, “Imagine you are stacking papers, and there is a huge compressive strain over these papers. This could cause massive structural deformations within the stacked layers and the surface. Similarly, the structural changes that occur in multi-layered graphene can affect its surface properties, such as its friction, which is what we focused on.” Their paper was made available online on January 24, 2022, and published in Volume 584 of Applied Surface Science on May 15, 2022.

The team first used the atom-sized tip of an atomic force microscope (AFM) to scratch the surface of CVD multi-layer graphene, cleaning off any polymeric residues. Then, they used AFM imaging, friction force microscopy, and Raman spectroscopy to identify and study various surface structures and how they affect nanoscale friction. Interestingly, they found that only the top-most layer of graphene was twisted with respect to the rest, which influenced the layer-dependent nanoscale friction in a way that varied according to the applied load.    

Overall, this study’s findings could pave the way for interesting mechanical applications for CVD graphene. “Graphene and similar materials can be used as solid lubricants,” comments Dr. Kim, “Whereas liquid lubricants like motor oils are not suitable for harsh environment such as outer space or the polar regions, the excellent robustness and frictional properties of graphene make it an attractive non-toxic alternative.

Interestingly, developing high-performance lubricants has environmental benefits since reducing friction is essential to prevent energy losses in mechanical systems. Another potential application for multi-layered CVD graphene is in micro/nano-devices, where a precise control of friction is necessary.

With any luck, further research will allow us to harness the powers of graphene and help push the boundaries of technology further.





Authors: Min Gi Choi, Seonha Park, Habeom Lee, Songkil Kim


Affiliations: School of Mechanical Engineering, Pusan National University


About Pusan National University

Pusan National University, located in Busan, South Korea, was founded in 1946, and is now the no. 1 national university of South Korea in research and educational competency. The multi-campus university also has other smaller campuses in Yangsan, Miryang, and Ami. The university prides itself on the principles of truth, freedom, and service, and has approximately 30,000 students, 1200 professors, and 750 faculty members. The university is composed of 14 colleges (schools) and one independent division, with 103 departments in all.    



About the author

Songkil Kim is an Assistant Professor of the School of Mechanical Engineering at Pusan National University. His group is focusing on two dimensional (2D) nanomaterials-related applications in various areas, such as surface coating, highly advanced nanoscale manufacturing, and neuromorphic computing science. Before joining Pusan National University, he completed his postdoctoral training at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, specializing in nanoscale fabrication using focused electron/ion beam induced processing (FE/IBIP). In 2014, Songkil Kim received a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology.

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