Superlubricity—a regime in which the static friction between two surfaces vanishes—could improve the performance and lifetime of nanodevices with moving parts, like nanopumps or medical nanosensors. The effect has been observed with several materials, including graphene. However, superlubricity theories are difficult to test in experiments because material parameters cannot be easily tuned. Now, Clemens Bechinger of the University of Konstanz, Germany, and colleagues have observed the transition to a superlubric regime in a model system made of plastic particles sliding over an optical potential. By providing new insights into the physical mechanisms that enable superlubricity, experiments using this model system could aid the development of nanodevices that take advantage of this frictionless state.

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