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Volume 534 Issue 7609, 30 June 2016

The sum of 390 sequential 1-MB photographs of an aqueous electrolyte drop in motion across a switchable boron nitride surface. Stiction, or static friction, is the force required to persuade an object to start sliding across a surface. It is technologically important in devices with moving parts in contact, but is not well understood. Stijn Mertens et al. describe an inorganic model system for the study of the relationships between surface wetting, stiction, adhesion and lubrication. The system is a hexagonal boron nitride monolayer that can be electrochemically switched by intercalation of hydrogen between a corrugated and a flat morphology. The change in the surface structure of the boron nitride alters the adhesion and its balance with stiction of an aqueous drop sliding across the monolayer. The work of adhesion increases in going from the flat to the corrugated surface, whereas the stiction threshold does not change significantly. Thus the authors make a quantitative connection between the macroscopic properties of stiction and adhesion as a result of structural control at the atomic scale.

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Futures

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