Amontonian Friction Induced by Flexible Surface Features on Microstructured Silicon

Esben Thormann, Sang Ho Yun, Per M. Claesson, Jan Linnros

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Friction between nonadhering sliding surfaces are normally described by Amontons’ law, which states that there exists a linear relationship between the friction force and the normal applied load and that the friction force is independent of the macroscopic contact area between the surfaces and the sliding velocity. In this study we have measured friction as a function of applied load between a spherical silica particle and a microstructured silicon surface consisting of arrays of vertical microneedles, and we have challenged Amontons’ law by changing the size of the silica particle and the sliding velocity. First, when looking at the friction as a function of time for a given applied load, the friction force was observed to oscillate with a period related to the spacing between the microneedles when using a small silica particle, whereas the friction force exhibited a more random variation when a larger silica particle was used. The oscillation in the friction force is a direct evidence for bending and release of individual microneedles and the observation illustrates that the energy dissipating mechanism becomes hidden in the friction data when the dimensions of the sliding body becomes much larger than the length scale of the surface features causing the friction. Second, when looking at the average friction force as a function of applied load we find, in accordance with Amontons’ law, a linear relationship between the friction force and the applied load and the friction force is independent of both the size of the sliding silica particle and of the sliding velocity. One exception from this, however, was observed when sliding a small silica particle at low velocity, where a deviation from Amontons’ law was noticed. The deviation from Amontons’ law is suggested to be attributed to a change in the energy dissipating mechanism giving rise to the friction force. In light of that it is suggested that Amontons’ law only is valid as long as the main energy dissipating mechanism does not change with the applied load. To get a better understanding of the general validity of Amontons’ law, our results were evaluated against different microscopic models.
Original languageEnglish
JournalA C S Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)3432-3439
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • friction
  • Amontons’ law
  • sliding velocity
  • contact area
  • surface structure
  • elastic deformation


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