Mechanical Engineering Faculty Research

Analytical Models for Atomic Friction

Yalin Dong, The University of Akron, Main Campus
Ajay Vadakkepatt
Ashlie Martini


In this methods article, we describe application of Prandtl–Tomlinson models and their extensions to interpret dry atomic-scale friction. The goal is to provide a practical overview of how to use these models to study frictional phenomena. We begin with the fundamental equations and build on them step-by-step—from the simple quasistatic one-spring, one-mass model for predicting transitions between friction regimes to the two-dimensional and multi-atom models for describing the effect of contact area. The intention is to bridge the gap between theoretical analysis, numerical implementation, and predicted physical phenomena. In the process, we provide an introductory manual with example computer programs for newcomers to the field, and an illustration of the significant potential for this approach to yield new fundamental understanding of atomic-scale friction.