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J R Soc Interface. 2018 Jan;15(138). pii: 20170629. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2017.0629.

Inversion of friction anisotropy in a bio-inspired asymmetrically structured surface.

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Department of Functional Morphology and Biomechanics, Zoological Institute, Kiel University, Kiel, Germany.
College of Mechanical and Electric Engineering, Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Nanjing, China.
Embodied AI and Neurorobotics Lab, Centre for BioRobotics, The Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Institute, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark.
Bio-inspired Robotics and Neural Engineering Lab, School of Information Science & Technology, Vidyasirimedhi Institute of Science & Technology, Rayong, Thailand.
Department of Functional Morphology and Biomechanics, Zoological Institute, Kiel University, Kiel, Germany


Friction anisotropy is an important property of many surfaces that usually facilitate the generation of motion in a preferred direction. Such surfaces are very common in biological systems and have been the templates for various bio-inspired materials with similar tribological properties. So far friction anisotropy is considered to be the result of an asymmetric arrangement of surface nano- and microstructures. However, here we show by using bio-inspired sawtooth-structured surfaces that the anisotropic friction properties are not only controlled by an asymmetric surface topography, but also by the ratio of the sample-substrate stiffness, the aspect ratio of surface structures, and by the substrate roughness. Systematically modifying these parameters, we were able to demonstrate a broad range of friction anisotropies, and for specific sample-substrate combinations even an inversion of the anisotropy. This result highlights the complex interrelation between the different material and topographical parameters on friction properties and sheds new light on the conventional design paradigm of tribological systems. Finally, this result is also of great importance for understanding functional principles of biological materials and surfaces, as such inversion of friction anisotropy may correlate with gait pattern and walking behaviour in climbing animals, which in turn may be used in robotic applications.


aspect ratio; asymmetric topography; friction anisotropy; roughness; stiffness

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