PhD-student: The onset of sliding friction at interfaces with a relevance to positioning challenges in nanolithography

Date posted August 25, 2022
Type PhD positions

Are you interested in simultaneously unraveling the fundamentals of friction and contributing to the solution of friction-related challenges in computer chip production? 

The research field of tribology, devoted to contact formation, friction and wear phenomena down to the atomic scale, is of direct and pressing relevance to the manufacture of semiconductor devices. Friction-induced stresses and deformations on the scale of only a few atomic spacings are starting to challenge the future of nanolithography technology, limiting the achievable feature size in semiconductor chips.

The very onset of sliding is characterized by pre-sliding or partial slip; slip that takes place locally at a multi-contact interface as the tangential force is increased toward the maximum tangential force the interface can withstand before failing. As multi-contact interfaces include junctions subjected to a variety of normal stresses the local threshold for the onset of slip also varies; some junctions may already slip while others remain stuck. In this project, you will perform friction experiments on a recently developed instrument that enables measurement of the very first nanometers of slip induced at multi-contact interfaces subject to normal and tangential loads. The goal of the project is to provide insight into the pre-sliding behavior and its impact on positioning accuracy in nanolithography. 

You will be embedded in the Contact Dynamics team at ARCNL but will also be closely associated with the tribology teams at the University of Amsterdam and at ASML, the world leading manufacturer of high tech lithography machines for chip making. You will have the opportunity to coach and co-supervise MSc students. 


  1. F.-C. Hsia, C. C. Hsu, L. Peng, F. M. Elam, C. Xiao, S. Franklin, D. Bonn, B Weber. Contribution of Capillary Adhesion to Friction at Macroscopic Solid–Solid Interfaces. Phys. Rev. Appl. 17 034034 (2022).
  2. F.-C. Hsia, S. Franklin, P. Audebert, A. M. Brouwer, D. Bonn, B. Weber. Rougher is more slippery: How adhesive friction decreases with increasing surface roughness due to the suppression of capillary adhesion. Phys. Rev. Res. 3, 043204 (2021).
  3. F.-C. Hsia, F. M. Elam, D. Bonn, B. Weber, S. E. Franklin. Wear particle dynamics drive the difference between repeated and non-repeated reciprocated sliding. Tribol. Int. 142, 105983 (2020).

About the group

The Advanced Research Center for Nanolithography (ARCNL) focuses on the fundamental physics and chemistry involved in current and future key technologies in nanolithography, primarily for the semiconductor industry. ARCNL is a public-private partnership between the Dutch Research Council (NWO), the University of Amsterdam (UvA), the VU University Amsterdam (VU), Groningen University (RUG) and the semiconductor equipment manufacturer ASML. ARCNL is located at the Science Park Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and has a size of approximately 100 scientists and support staff. See also

The research activities of the Contact Dynamics group aim at investigating and providing fundamental understanding of the mechanisms underpinning friction, friction changes over time and friction variability, as affected by wear phenomena, at forces, scales and other preconditions relevant to present and future nanolithography technology. This includes rough surface contact mechanics, adhesion, tribochemical wear, thin film lubrication and novel coatings.


You will need to meet the requirements for an MSc-degree, to ensure eligibility for a Dutch PhD examination. You enjoy performing experiments and analysis to stepwise build a deeper understanding of complex physical mechanisms. You are good at communicating and explaining the results of your work. Experimental (and modeling) experience in the field of tribology would be advantageous.

Terms of employment

The position is intended as full-time (40 hours / week, 12 months / year) appointment in the service of the Netherlands Foundation of Scientific Research Institutes (NWO-I) for the duration of four years, with a starting salary of gross € 2,539 per month and a range of employment benefits. After successful completion of the PhD research a PhD degree will be granted at a Dutch University. Several courses are offered, specially developed for PhD-students. ARCNL assists any new foreign PhD-student with housing and visa applications and compensates their transport costs and furnishing expenses.

Contact info

Dr. B. Weber
Group leader Contact Dynamics
Phone: +31 (0)20-754 7100

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