Stick-Slip Mechanisms at the Nanoscale

When two surfaces slide past each other, energy is mainly dissipated by stick-slip events. Macroscopic stick-slip is usually explained by asperities that come in and out of contact. Herein, we probe stick-slip at the nanoscale at interfaces and polymer coated interfaces by pulling single polymers covalently attached to an AFM cantilever tip laterally over solid substrates in liquid environment. We find two different stick mechanisms, namely desorption stick (DS) and cooperative stick (CS). While DS-slip resembles the velocity dependence of macroscopic stick-slip, CS-slip shows an increase in friction with velocity. For various reasons we anticipate that both stick mechanisms are necessary for a molecular understanding of stick-slip at the interface and interphase.