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Superlubric Sliding of Graphene Nanoflakes on Graphene

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journal contribution
posted on 26.02.2013 by Xiaofeng Feng, Sangku Kwon, Jeong Young Park, Miquel Salmeron
The lubricating properties of graphite and graphene have been intensely studied by sliding a frictional force microscope tip against them to understand the origin of the observed low friction. In contrast, the relative motion of free graphene layers remains poorly understood. Here we report a study of the sliding behavior of graphene nanoflakes (GNFs) on a graphene surface. Using scanning tunneling microscopy, we found that the GNFs show facile translational and rotational motions between commensurate initial and final states at temperatures as low as 5 K. The motion is initiated by a tip-induced transition of the flakes from a commensurate to an incommensurate registry with the underlying graphene layer (the superlubric state), followed by rapid sliding until another commensurate position is reached. Counterintuitively, the average sliding distance of the flakes is larger at 5 K than at 77 K, indicating that thermal fluctuations are likely to trigger their transitions from superlubric back to commensurate ground states.