Pitt | Swanson Engineering

SURFACES AND SMALL-SCALE STRUCTURES LABORATORY

The focus of our research is to reveal the physical processes governing the mechanics of surfaces and interfaces. 

Contacting surfaces are of critical importance in advanced applications, including advanced manufacturing schemes, micro-/nano-electromechanical systems, and scanning probe microscopy applications. The function of such applications depends on the ability to precisely predict and control contact parameters such as contact area, contact stiffness, adhesion, and electrical and thermal transport.

Our group uses novel combinations of in situ electron microscopy, multi-scale mechanical testing, and scanning probe microscopy to interrogate the mechanics, tribology, and functional properties of contacts. On the small scale, we can achieve Angstrom-scale spatial resolution and nanonewton force resolution, to interrogate atomic-scale processes. On the large-scale, we use micro- and macro-scale testing of larger contacts that contain multi-scale surface roughness. This enables us to scale-up these nanoscale insights to describe functional properties of larger-scale surfaces.

Our goal is to develop quantitative, fundamental, and predictive understanding of contact behavior, which will enable tailored surface properties for advanced technologies.