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Covalent Bonding and Atomic-Level Plasticity Increase Adhesion in Silicon–Diamond Nanocontacts

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posted on 16.10.2019, 17:11 by Zachary B. Milne, J. David Schall, Tevis D.B. Jacobs, Judith A. Harrison, Robert W. Carpick
Nanoindentation and sliding experiments using single-crystal silicon atomic force microscope probes in contact with diamond substrates in vacuum were carried out in situ with a transmission electron microscope (TEM). After sliding, the experimentally measured works of adhesion were significantly larger than values estimated for pure van der Waals (vdW) interactions. Furthermore, the works of adhesion increased with both the normal stress and speed during the sliding, indicating that applied stress played a central role in the reactivity of the interface. Complementary molecular dynamics (MD) simulations were used to lend insight into the atomic-level processes that occur during these experiments. Simulations using crystalline silicon tips with varying degrees of roughness and diamond substrates with different amounts of hydrogen termination demonstrated two relevant phenomena. First, covalent bonds formed across the interface, where the number of bonds formed was affected by the hydrogen termination of the substrate, the tip roughness, the applied stress, and the stochastic nature of bond formation. Second, for initially rough tips, the sliding motion and the associated application of shear stress produced an increase in irreversible atomic-scale plasticity that tended to smoothen the tips’ surfaces, which resulted in a concomitant increase in adhesion. In contrast, for initially smooth tips, sliding roughened some of these tips. In the limit of low applied stress, the experimentally determined works of adhesion match the intrinsic (van der Waals) work of adhesion for an atomically smooth silicon–diamond interface obtained from MD simulations. The results provide mechanistic interpretations of sliding-induced changes and interfacial adhesion and may help inform applications involving adhesive interfaces that are subject to applied shear forces and displacements.