The dominance of adhesive forces at the nanoscale implies that significant friction forces can be generated at the interface even with no externally applied normal load. We have nanofabricated an adhesion-friction force sensor to characterize friction in zinc oxide nanowires on silicon substrates. Experimental results show static friction coefficients for zero externally applied normal load can be as high as 45. This behavior is observed to be strongly influenced by the ambient conditions and we propose that the presence of molecularly thin moisture layers is responsible for the observed pseudo-static friction. The findings of this study will provide valuable input to nanoscale interfacial systems such as nanowires and nanotube based sensors and nanocomposites.

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