Friction and wear have long been acknowledged as limiting factors to numerous applications and many areas of technology, which has lead to significant interest in understanding and controlling these processes. Current interest in microscale and nanoscale machines with moving parts add to this interest, especially as the mechanisms that lead to friction at the atomic-scale can sometimes be quite distinct from the mechanisms that dominate at the macroscale.
This chapter presents a review of the applications of computational modeling methods to atomic-scale and nanometer-scale tribology. It includes a discussion of computational modeling methods frequently employed in these studies, with some analysis of the conditions under which these methods are best applied. This is followed by a review of the findings of computational studies of nanometer-scale indentation, friction, and lubrication.
In this chapter, a relatively complete discussion of the contribution that molecular dynamics and related simulations are making in the area of nanotribology is presented. The examples discussed above make it clear that these approaches are providing exciting insights into friction, wear, and related processes at the atomic scale that could not have been obtained in any other way. Furthermore, the synergy between these simulations and new and experimental techniques such as the surface force apparatus and proximal probe microscopes is producing a revolution in our understanding of the origin of friction at its most fundamental atomic level.