Dielectric fluctuations and the origins of noncontact friction

Seppe Kuehn, Roger F. Loring, John A. Marohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dielectric fluctuations underlie a wide variety of physical phenomena, from ion mobility in electrolyte solutions and decoherence in quantum systems to dynamics in glass-forming materials and conformational changes in proteins. Here we show that dielectric fluctuations also lead to noncontact friction. Using high sensitivity, custom fabricated, single crystal silicon cantilevers we measure energy losses over poly(methyl methacrylate), poly(vinyl acetate), and polystyrene thin films. A new theoretical analysis, relating noncontact friction to the dielectric response of the film, is consistent with our experimental observations. This work constitutes the first direct, mechanical detection of noncontact friction due to dielectric fluctuations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number156103
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number15
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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