structural superlubricity, lattice registry, elastic deformation, strained solitons, crystal plasticity, molecular dynamics simulations


Structural superlubricity is a theoretical concept stating that the friction force is absent between two rigid, incommensurate crystalline surfaces. However, elasticity of the contact pairs could modify the lattice registry at interfaces by nucleating local slips, favoring commeasure. The validity of structural superlubricity is thus concerned for large-scale systems where the energy cost of elastic distortion to break the lattice registry is low. In this work, we study the size dependence of superlubricity between single-crystal graphite flakes. Molecular dynamics simulations show that with nucleation and propagation of out-of-plane dislocations and strained solitons at Bernal interfaces, the friction force is reduced by one order of magnitude. Elastic distortion is much weaker for non-Bernal or incommensurate ones, remaining notable only at the ends of contact. Lattice self-organization at small twist angles perturbs the state of structural superlubricity through a reconstructed potential energy surface. Theoretical models are developed to illustrate and predict the interfacial elastoplastic behaviors at length scales beyond those in the simulations. These results validate the rigid assumption for graphitic superlubricity systems at microscale, and reveal the intrinsic channels of mechanical energy dissipation. The understandings lay the ground for the design of structural superlubricity applications.

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