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Fluctuation-induced quantum friction in nanoscale water flows


The flow of water in carbon nanochannels has defied understanding thus far1, with accumulating experimental evidence for ultra-low friction, exceptionally high water flow rates and curvature-dependent hydrodynamic slippage2,3,4,5. In particular, the mechanism of water–carbon friction remains unknown6, with neither current theories7 nor classical8,9 or ab initio molecular dynamics simulations10 providing satisfactory rationalization for its singular behaviour. Here we develop a quantum theory of the solid–liquid interface, which reveals a new contribution to friction, due to the coupling of charge fluctuations in the liquid to electronic excitations in the solid. We expect that this quantum friction, which is absent in Born–Oppenheimer molecular dynamics, is the dominant friction mechanism for water on carbon-based materials. As a key result, we demonstrate a marked difference in quantum friction between the water–graphene and water–graphite interface, due to the coupling of water Debye collective modes with a thermally excited plasmon specific to graphite. This suggests an explanation for the radius-dependent slippage of water in carbon nanotubes4, in terms of the electronic excitations of the nanotubes. Our findings open the way for quantum engineering of hydrodynamic flows through the electronic properties of the confining wall.

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Fig. 1: Theory of solid–liquid quantum friction.
Fig. 2: Surface dielectric response of water.
Fig. 3: Quantum friction of water on a jellium surface.
Fig. 4: Quantum friction at the water–carbon interface.

Data availability

The MD simulation data (Fig. 2 and Supplementary Figs. 1 and 2) are available on Zenodo ( The rest of the data are included with the paper.


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We thank A. Robert for help with MD simulations and acknowledge fruitful discussions with A. Robert, B. Douçot, R. Netz, B. Coasne, N. Lorente and B. Rotenberg. L.B. acknowledges funding from the EU H2020 Framework Programme/ERC Advanced Grant agreement number 785911-Shadoks and ANR project Neptune. This work has received the support of ‘Institut Pierre-Gilles de Gennes’, programmes ANR-10-IDEX-0001-02 PSL and ANR-10-LABX-31. We acknowledge the French HPC resources of GENCI for grant number A9-A0070807364. The Flatiron Institute is a division of the Simons Foundation. We acknowledge the inspiration and contributions to science of late Jorge Iribas Cerdá.

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Authors and Affiliations



L.B., M.-L.B. and N.K. conceived the project. N.K. developed the theoretical framework. N.K. and L.B. co-wrote the paper, with input from M.-L.B. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Nikita Kavokine or Lydéric Bocquet.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Nature thanks Mischa Bonn and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work. Peer reviewer reports are available.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Sections 1–7 including Figs. 1–5. See contents page for details.

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Kavokine, N., Bocquet, ML. & Bocquet, L. Fluctuation-induced quantum friction in nanoscale water flows. Nature 602, 84–90 (2022).

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