Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.


Skimming the surface

Models of the microscopic contact area between two surfaces work surprisingly well, or fail completely, depending on the aspects of adhesion or friction being investigated. A simulation now shows how the details matter.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Forms of mechanical contact.


  1. Luan, B. & Robbins, M. O. Nature 435, 929–932 (2005).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Hertz, H. R. J. Reine Angew. Math. 92, 156–171 (1881).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Hertz, H. R. in Miscellaneous Papers 146–162 (Macmillan, London, 1896).

    Google Scholar 

  4. Johnson, K. L., Kendall, K. & Roberts, A. D. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. A 324, 301–313 (1971).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Dienwiebel, M. et al. Phys. Rev. Lett. 92, 126101 (2004).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Israelachvili, J. Skimming the surface. Nature 435, 893–894 (2005).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing