Nanofriction in cold ion traps, A. Benassi, A. Vanossi, E. Tosatti, Nature Communications 2, 236 (2011)
Sliding friction between crystal lattices and the physics of cold ion traps are so far non-overlapping fields. Two sliding lattices may either stick and show static friction or slip with dynamic friction; cold ions are known to form static chains, helices or clusters, depending on the trapping conditions. Here we show, based on simulations, that much could be learnt about friction by sliding, through, for example, an electric field, the trapped ion chains over a corrugated potential. Unlike infinite chains, in which the theoretically predicted Aubry transition to free sliding may take place, trapped chains are always pinned. Yet, a properly defined static friction still vanishes Aubry-like at a symmetric–asymmetric structural transition, found for decreasing corrugation in both straight and zig-zag trapped chains. Dynamic friction is also accessible in ringdown oscillations of the ion trap. Long theorized static and dynamic one-dimensional friction phenomena could thus become accessible in future cold ion tribology.