Nanotribology is the branch of tribology that studies friction, wear, adhesion and lubrication phenomena at the nanoscale, where atomic interactions and quantum effects are not negligible. The aim of this discipline is characterizing and modifying surfaces for both scientific and technological purposes.
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Nanotribological research has historically involved both direct and indirect methodologies. Microscopy techniques, including Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM), Atomic-Force Microscope (AFM) and Surface Forces Apparatus, (SFA) have been used to analyze surfaces with extremely high resolution, while indirect methods such as computational methods and Quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) have also been extensively employed.
Changing the topology of surfaces at the nanoscale, friction can be either reduced or enhanced more intensively than macroscopic lubrication and adhesion; in this way, superlubrication and superadhesion can be achieved. In micro- and nano-mechanical devices problems of friction and wear, that are critical due to the extremely high surface volume ratio, can be solved covering moving parts with super lubricant coatings. On the other hand, where adhesion is an issue, nanotribological techniques offer a possibility to overcome such difficulties.