PhD student: Why does friction limit our ability to make smart phones smarter?

Date posted September 25, 2019
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.

Macroscopic interfaces typically consist of a myriad of contact points that interact in a complex way. Add to this the complexity of nanolayers such as lubricants or adsorbed water and it becomes clear that understanding macroscopic friction from first principles is a huge challenge.  Nevertheless there is enormous demand for such understanding and the opportunities it would offer to predict or even control sliding friction. Furthermore, new tools that enable in-situ nanoscale insight into macroscale frictional behavior have recently become available (1-3). In this PhD project, you will take maximal advantage of these exciting developments by exploring innovative strategies towards understanding of and control over macroscopic friction and wear. This will include macroscopic friction experiments, atomic force microscopy, contact modeling and fluorescence microscopy.

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.


  1. B. Weber, T. Suhina, A. M. Brouwer and D. Bonn. Frictional weakening of slip interfaces. Sci. Adv. 5 eaav7603 (2019).
  2. D. Petrova, B. Weber, C. Allain, P. Auderbert, D. Bonn and A. M. Brouwer. Fast 3D microscopy imaging of contacts between surfaces using a fluorescent liquid. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 10, 40973−40977 (2018).
  3. B. Weber, T. Suhina, T. Junge, L. Pastewka, A.M. Brouwer and D. Bonn. Molecular probes reveal deviations from Amontons’ law in multi-asperity frictional contacts. Nat. Commun. 9, 888 (2018).

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) and the semiconductor equipment manufacturer ASML. ARCNL is located at the Science Park Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and is currently building up towards 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 have an MSc degree in physics, or a related subject. 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

A temporary contract for 38 hours per week for the duration of 4 years (initial appointment will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it can be extended for a total duration of 4 years) and should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). You will formally be appointed at the Institute of Physics (IoP) of the University of Amsterdam (UvA), one of the founding ARCNL partners. We will draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. We also expect you to assist in teaching undergraduates and master students.

The salary, depending on relevant experience before the beginning of the employment contract, will be  €2.325 to €2.972 (scale P) gross per month, based on fulltime (38 hours a week), exclusive 8 % holiday allowance and 8.3 % end-of-year bonus. A favorable tax agreement, the ‘30% ruling’, may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities is applicable.

Are you curious about our extensive package of secondary employment benefits like our excellent opportunities for study and development? Take a look here.

After successful completion of the PhD research a PhD degree will be granted at the UvA. Several courses are offered, specifically developed for PhD-students.

ARCNL will compensate foreign PhD students for their transport costs and furnishing expenses.

Contact info

Dr. Bart Weber
Group leader Contact Dynamics
Phone: +31 20 8517100


Prof. Steve Franklin
Group leader Contact Dynamics
Phone: +31 (0)6 1509 3396

You can respond to this vacancy online via the button below.
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