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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Dec 11;115(50):12668-12673. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1811750115. Epub 2018 Nov 27.

Contact mechanics between the human finger and a touchscreen under electroadhesion.

Author information

Theory 1, Peter Grünberg Institute-1, Forschungszentrum Jülich, 52425 Jülich, Germany.
Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences, Istanbul Bilgi University, 34060 Istanbul, Turkey.
College of Engineering, Koc University, 34450 Istanbul, Turkey.
Dipartimento di Ingegneria dell'Innovazione, Università del Salento, 73100 Lecce, Italy.
Theory 1, Peter Grünberg Institute-1, Forschungszentrum Jülich, 52425 Jülich, Germany;
Multiscale Consulting, 52425 Jülich, Germany.


The understanding and control of human skin contact against technological substrates is the key aspect behind the design of several electromechanical devices. Among these, surface haptic displays that modulate the friction between the human finger and touch surface are emerging as user interfaces. One such modulation can be achieved by applying an alternating voltage to the conducting layer of a capacitive touchscreen to control electroadhesion between its surface and the finger pad. However, the nature of the contact interactions between the fingertip and the touchscreen under electroadhesion and the effects of confined material properties, such as layering and inelastic deformation of the stratum corneum, on the friction force are not completely understood yet. Here, we use a mean field theory based on multiscale contact mechanics to investigate the effect of electroadhesion on sliding friction and the dependency of the finger-touchscreen interaction on the applied voltage and other physical parameters. We present experimental results on how the friction between a finger and a touchscreen depends on the electrostatic attraction between them. The proposed model is successfully validated against full-scale (but computationally demanding) contact mechanics simulations and the experimental data. Our study shows that electroadhesion causes an increase in the real contact area at the microscopic level, leading to an increase in the electrovibrating tangential frictional force. We find that it should be possible to further augment the friction force, and thus the human tactile sensing, by using a thinner insulating film on the touchscreen than used in current devices.


electroadhesion; haptics; multiscale contact mechanics; skin friction; touchscreens

[Available on 2019-06-11]

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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