Physics of adhesion

William W Gerberich, M. J. Cordill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Adhesion physics was relegated to the lowest echelons of academic pursuit until the advent of three seemingly disconnected events. The first, atomic force microscopy (AFM), eventually allowed fine-scale measurement of adhesive point contacts. The second, large-scale computational materials science, now permits both hierarchical studies of a few thousand atoms from first principles or of billions of atoms with less precise interatomic potentials. The third is a microelectronics industry push towards the nanoscale which has provided the driving force for requiring a better understanding of adhesion physics. In the present contribution, an attempt is made at conjoining these separate events into an updating of how theoretical and experimental approaches are providing new understanding of adhesion physics. While all material couples are briefly considered, the emphasis is on metal/semiconductor and metal/ceramic interfaces. Here, adhesion energies typically range from 1 to 100 J m-2 where the larger value is considered a practical work of adhesion. Experimental emphasis is on thin-film de-adhesion for 10 to 1000 nm thick films. For comparison, theoretical approaches from first principles quantum mechanics to embedded atom methods used in multi-scale modelling are utilized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberR03
Pages (from-to)2157-2203
Number of pages47
JournalReports on Progress in Physics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2006


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