Friction is an everyday issue. At micrometric and sub-micrometric scales, interfacial forces dominate: friction and adhesion forces affect the performance and lifetime of microdevices such as magnetic-storage hard disks, micro/nano electromechanical devices (MEMS/NEMS). Durable low-friction surfaces, wear-resistant materials, and suitable liquid and solid lubricants are in demand for hi-tech applications. A fundamental understanding of the elementary nanotribological mechanisms, intimately related to both adhesion and wear, and the interrelated collective mesoscopic processes is still in its infancy, and remains a challenge. If a better understanding of atomic-scale frictional processes could be extended to the macroscopic scale of machinery, it could lead to progress in transportation, manufacturing, energy conversion, and lubricant consumption, impacting on innumerable aspects of our economy, health and environment. Methods beyond lubrication for the reduction and control of friction are needed, and promise significant industrial impact.
Europe has a highly productive and scientifically visible nanotribological community, encompassing at least 30 groups with strong expertise, covering experimental, theoretical, and simulation approaches. This community is a patrimony, comparable to its US and Japanese counterparts. American nanotribologists are naturally pulled together by the necessity to network and to concur for funding. There are Gordon Conferences, American Physical Society (APS) March Meeting Focused Symposia, and other occasions where their community joins forces. The same can be qualitatively said for Japan. In contrast, the European nanotribology community is missing a systematic EU-funded effort supporting contacts and networking. Several COST countries contribute individually national funds to micro/nanotribology research, and so does the EU, e.g. through a number of individual European Research Council (ERC) grants. None of these covers European networking, though.
This Action will fill this gap. It will be complementary to existing national research programs, not duplicating any. Its scope will be to help all European groups active in nanotribology to network together, thus fostering a concerted scientific effort.