Influence of chemical bonding on the variability of diamond-like carbon nanoscale adhesion

Rodrigo A. Bernal, Polun Chen, J. David Schall, Judith A. Harrison, Yeau Ren Jeng, Robert W. Carpick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Diamond-like-carbon (DLC) is a promising material for tribological applications such as hard disk, automotive, machine tool, and aerospace coatings. We performed in-situ transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and molecular dynamics (MD) studies of nanoscale single-asperities made of tetrahedral amorphous carbon (ta-C, a type of DLC with high strength) contacting single-crystal diamond, to understand the factors controlling adhesion. Visualization of the contacts in TEM enabled us to correlate the asperity's geometry and the adhesion measurements. MD simulations allowed the atomic-scale mechanisms of adhesion to be elucidated and correlated with the TEM observations. Experimentally-determined pull-in forces show less scatter than pull-off forces. The magnitude of the pull-in forces is consistent with adhesion arising from van der Waals (VDW) interactions, allowing us to estimate the ta-C/diamond Hamaker constant. MD simulations with the AIREBO potential confirmed that including VDW interactions leads to less scatter in adhesive forces in approach than in separation. MD simulations with the REBO+S potential demonstrate that the large scatter in pull-off forces observed experimentally arises from the complex nature of covalent bonding between substrate and tip, influenced by the local energy landscape, hydrogen coverage, and the number of repeated contact events. The scatter in pull-off force also tends to decrease with increasing roughness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-276
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Mar

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)


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