Stick-Slip Friction Reveals Hydrogel Lubrication Mechanisms

Tooba Shoaib, Joerg Heintz, Josue A. Lopez-Berganza, Raymundo Muro-Barrios, Simon A. Egner, Rosa M. Espinosa-Marzal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The lubrication behavior of the hydrated biopolymers that constitute tissues in organisms differs from that outlined by the classical Stribeck curve, and studying hydrogel lubrication is a key pathway to understand the complexity of biolubrication. Here, we have investigated the frictional characteristics of polyacrylamide (PAAm) hydrogels with various acrylamide concentrations, exhibiting Young's moduli (E) that range from 1 to 40 kPa, as a function of applied normal load and sliding velocities by colloid probe lateral force microscopy. The speed-dependence of the friction force shows an initial decrease in friction with increasing velocity, while, above a transition velocity V∗, friction increases with speed. This study reveals two different boundary lubrication mechanisms characterized by distinct scaling laws. An unprecedented and comprehensive study of the lateral force loops reveals intermittent friction or stick-slip above and below V∗, with characteristics that depend on the hydrogel network, applied load, and sliding velocity. Our work thus provides insight into the closely tied parameters governing hydrogel lubrication mechanisms, and stick-slip friction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)756-765
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 23 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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