Electric-field frictional effects in confined zwitterionic molecules

Melisa M. Gianetti, Roberto Guerra, Andrea Vanossi, Michael Urbakh, Nicola Manini*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We theoretically explore the effect of a transverse electric field on the frictional response of a bi-layer of packed zwitterionic molecules. The dipole-moment reorientation promoted by the electric field can lead to either stick-slip or smooth sliding dynamics, with average shear stress values varying over a wide range. A structure-property relation is revealed by investigating the array of molecules and their mutual orientation and interlocking. Moreover, the thermal friction enhancement previously observed in these molecules is shown to be suppressed by the electric field, recovering the expected thermolubricity at large-enough fields. The same holds for other basic tribological quantities, such as the external load, which can influence friction in opposite ways depending on the strength of the applied electric field. Our findings open a route for the reversible control of friction forces via electric polarization of the sliding surface.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19037-19045
Number of pages9
JournalPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics
Issue number28
StatePublished - 6 Jul 2023


FundersFunder number
European Research Council8344023
Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca
Israel Science Foundation1141/18


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