The tendency of smooth surfaces to stick spontaneously to each other is becoming a serious problem, with: a) the increasing quality in surface finish for many components and systems, b) on miniaturization in mechanical components, and c) in demanded precision of positioning of parts in high-end equipment machines and systems. Surfaces tend to be made smoother in order to gain flatness or in order to fulfill the need for more precise and reproducible positioning of parts. Adhesion or even sticking of the surfaces is a major showstopper for these applications.
There are several measures that can be taken in order to reduce spontaneous adhesion. Quantification of the effectiveness of the chosen solution is most often done using an AFM with probes varying from 1 nm to 8 micron of contact diameter. A serious disadvantage in measuring adhesion by sharp tips is the wear of the tips. Sharp tips wear easily, resulting in undefined contact areas. When the real area of contact is not well defined, the quantification of the adhesion force is not significant.
In the current study results of AFM measurements from literature with different tip diameters of colloidal probes are compared with measurements we performed using AFM cantilevers with a plateau tip and using probes from large spheres using an alternative setup (UNAT). These methods give results that are in good agreement with values found in literature. Large contacting surface enhance the quality of the measured adhesion values.
Another part of the study deals with a deliberately roughening of smooth surfaces to minimize (spontaneous) adhesion. Good agreement has been found with existing results.
For the use of larger surfaces it is important that the surfaces to be tested are extremely clean. Particles on smooth surface do influence the measurements quite easily. Especially for larger areas, the possibility of encountering particles on the surface are more likely, when particles are present. For the measurements in this study a lot of care has been taken therefore to remove contamination: particles as well as contamination of organic origin.