Friction under microscope in a trapped-ion optical-lattice emulator

Alexei Bylinskii (MIT)
Event Date and Time: 
Thu, 2015-06-04 14:00 - 15:00
TRIUMF Auditorium

Friction is the ubiquitous mechanical process of sticking and energy dissipation at the interface between objects. According to the widely known empirical laws of friction, it is proportional to the load on the interface and independent of velocity. However, atomistic models and some atomic force probe experiments exhibit superlubricity below a critical value of the interface interaction strength, as well as a complex dependence on velocity, temperature and lattice mismatch. Using laser-cooled trapped ion crystals in an optical lattice, we study these phenomena with microscopic control and atom-by-atom sub-lattice-site resolution not available in any solid state probes, allowing us to build a bottom-up understanding of the physics of friction. In particular, we observe: 1) 4 different friction regimes over 5 orders of magnitude in velocity, 2) superlubricity induced by lattice mismatch, and 3) the breaking of superlubricity above a critical strength of the optical lattice, related to the long-theorized analyticity-breaking Aubry transition.

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