Scientific Internship: Tunable friction through isopropanol vapor-phase lubrication: How does it work?

Date posted March 8, 2021
Type Scientific internships

In this project, you will use a combination of advanced and novel experimental techniques to unravel how contacts form between surfaces, how the contact conditions change over time, and how this contributes to variations in friction forces and wear.

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.

In vapor-phase lubrication, a lubricant is supplied in the vapor phase and subsequently condenses onto the sliding surfaces where it reduces friction and wear. Because the composition of the vapor can easily be controlled externally, this method has the potential to enable stable and tunable friction at a variety of interfaces.

In this project we will study SiC on Si wafer interfaces that undergo non-reciprocated sliding movement; i.e. sliding motion in which the contact is continuously supplied with unworn Si counter surface. Through isopropanol vapor phase lubrication, friction and wear can be reduced substantially for these sliding conditions, with respect to the friction and wear observed in ambient tests. By what mechanism does the vapor phase lubrication enable this reduction in friction and wear and is there a difference between vapor phase lubrication and liquid phase lubrication? This will be the subject of this project.

Recommended articles for further reading on this subject:

  1. Y. Yau, S.-S. Yoo, O. V. Penkov and D.-E. Kim. Wear reduction of borosilicate glass microballs using vapor-phase lubrication with n-pentanol. Tribol T. 59, 507-512 (2016).
  2. Strawheckera, D. B. Asaya, J. McKinneyc and S. H. Kim. Reduction of adhesion and friction of silicon oxide surface in the presence of n-propanol vapor in the gas phase. Tribol. Lett. 19, 17-21 (2005).
  3. L. Demirel and S. Granick. Glasslike transition of a confined simple fluid. Phys. Rev. Lett. 77, 2261-2264 (1996).
  4. Villey, E. Martinot, C. Cottin-Bizonne et al. Effect of surface elasticity on the rheology of nanometric liquids. Phys. Rev. Lett. 111, 215701 (2013).

About the group

At the Advanced Research Center for Nanolithography (ARCNL) we carry out exciting fundamental physics research at the highest possible level with relevance to key technologies in nanolithography. We contribute to the production of ever smarter and smaller electronics, while at the same time pushing the boundaries of our fundamental insight into the workings of nature.

You will be embedded in the Contact Dynamics team at ARCNL but will also be closely associated with the University of Amsterdam and ASML, the world leading manufacturer of high tech lithography machines for chip making.


You have or will soon have a Bachelors degree in physics or a related field and participate in a Master study during the entire internship duration. The internship must be a mandatory part of your curriculum. You have a nationality of an EU-member state and/or you are a student at a Netherlands University. Please note: as from 01-01-2021 the UK is no longer an EU-member state. You must be available for at least 5 months.

Terms of employment

At the start of the traineeship your trainee plan will be set out, in consultation with your ARCNL supervisor, including a small allowance.

Contact info

Prof. Steve Franklin
Group leader Contact Dynamics
Phone: +31 (0)20-754 7100
Bart Weber
Postdoc Contact Dynamics
Phone: +31 (0)20-754 7100

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–  Resume;
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