Faculty Advisor

Dr. Nancy A. Burnham

Faculty Advisor

Dr. Terri A. Camesano

Faculty Advisor

Dr. Declan G. DePaor

Faculty Advisor

Dr. Rafael Garcia

Faculty Advisor

Dr. Jack Martin




The surface roughness of a few asperities and their influence on the work of adhesion is of scientific interest. Macroscale and nanoscale adhesion data have given seemingly inconsistent results. Despite the importance of bridging the gap between the two regimes, little experimental work has been done, presumably due to the difficulty of the experiment needed to determine how small amounts of surface roughness might influence adhesion data lying in between the two scales. To investigate the role of few-asperity contacts in adhesion, the pull-off force was measured between different sized AFM (Atomic-Force Microscope) tips that had different roughnesses and sample surfaces that had well-controlled material properties. The spring constant of the cantilever, the deflection of the cantilever, and the radius of the cantilever tip were measured before each experiment. There were seventeen tips of four different types, with radii from 200 nm to 60 ìm. The samples were unpatterned amorphous silicon dioxide die with two types of surface conditions: untreated and treated with a few angstroms of vapor deposited diphenylsiloxane. We observed that the pull-off force was independent of the radius of the AFM tip, which was contrary to all continuum-mechanics model predictions. To explain this behavior, we assumed that the interactions between the AFM tip and sample were additive, material properties were constant, and that the AFM tip, asperities, and sample surfaces were of uniform density. Based on these assumptions, we calculated a simple correction due to the measured Root Mean Square (RMS) surface roughness of the AFM tips. The simple correction for the RMS surface roughness resulted in the expected dependence of the pull-off force on radius, but the magnitudes were higher than expected. Commercial and heat-treated AFM tips had minimal surface roughness and result in magnitudes that were more reliable. The relative uncertainty for the pull-off force was estimated to be 10% and the work of adhesion was estimated to be 15%. In this thesis, we derive how the cantilever and tip parameters contribute to the measured pull-off force, show how the corrected results compare with theory, and demonstrate how the AFM probes were calibrated. Although much work is still needed, the work presented here should expand the understanding of adhesion between the nanoscale and macroscale.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Surface roughness, Surface forces, Van der Waals f, Adhesion, Surface roughnes, Measurement, Microelectromechanical systems