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Giant frictional dissipation peaks and charge-density-wave slips at the NbSe2 surface


Understanding nanoscale friction and dissipation is central to nanotechnology1,2,3,4. The recent detection of the electronic-friction drop caused by the onset of superconductivity in Nb (ref. 5) by means of an ultrasensitive non-contact pendulum atomic force microscope (AFM) raised hopes that a wider variety of mechanical-dissipation mechanisms become accessible. Here, we report a multiplet of AFM dissipation peaks arising a few nanometres above the surface of NbSe2—a layered compound exhibiting an incommensurate charge-density wave (CDW). Each peak appears at a well-defined tip–surface interaction force of the order of a nanonewton, and persists up to 70 K, where the short-range order of CDWs is known to disappear. Comparison of the measurements with a theoretical model suggests that the peaks are associated with local, tip-induced 2π phase slips of the CDW, and that dissipation maxima arise from hysteretic behaviour of the CDW phase as the tip oscillates at specific distances where sharp local slips occur.

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Figure 1: Observation of a charge-density wave on a NbSe2 surface and accompanied non-contact friction.
Figure 2: Energy dissipation versus tip–sample interaction force Fint.
Figure 3: Energy as a function of distance d for the elastic CDW model under the tip perturbation.

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F.P., G.E.S. and E.T. acknowledge research support by MIUR, through PRIN— 2010LLKJBX_001, by SNSF, through SINERGIA Project CRSII2 136287/1, and by the EU-Japan Project LEMSUPER. E.T. acknowledges financial support from the ERC Advanced Research Grant No. 320796 MODPHYSFRICT. R.B. acknowledges financial support by the CNR program Short Term Mobility STM 2011. M.L., M.K., R.P., A.B. and E.M. acknowledge financial support from the Swiss National Science Foundation (NSF), the SINERGIA Project CRSII2 136287/1 and the Swiss National Center of Competence in Research on Nanoscale Science (NCCR-NANO). G.B. acknowledges financial support from EPSRC, UK(EP/I007210/1).

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The samples were fabricated by G.B. The idea was born out of discussion between E.T., E.M., R.B., A.G., R.P. and M.K. The experiment was carried out by M.L., M.K. and R.P. R.B. and A.G. participated in sample preparation and the pendulum-AFM experiment. The theoretical model was developed by F.P., G.E.S. and E.T. E.T., E.M., A.B., F.P., G.E.S., R.B., A.G., M.L., M.K. and R.P. were involved in interpretation, discussion and paper writing.

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Correspondence to Marcin Kisiel.

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Langer, M., Kisiel, M., Pawlak, R. et al. Giant frictional dissipation peaks and charge-density-wave slips at the NbSe2 surface. Nature Mater 13, 173–177 (2014).

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