While the laws of friction at the macroscopic level are well known, the fundamental understanding
of the frictional phenomena at the atomic scale is still unsatisfactory from many points of view.
Due to continuing device miniaturization, friction imposes serious constraints and limitations on the performance and lifetime of advanced technological microdevices; durable low-friction surfaces and suitable liquid and solid lubricants are increasingly in demand in hi-tech applications such as magnetic storage systems, microelectro-mechanical devices, and aerospace components. It has been estimated that about 6% of gross national product in developed countries is "wasted" on friction and related wear (nearly $800 billion per year in the USA alone).
Computer simulations are the most powerful theoretical tool to study atomic-scale frictional
processes, since they allow controlled numerical "experiments" where the geometry, sliding
conditions and interactions between the atoms can be varied at will, and where
the full dynamics of all atoms can be followed, unlike in real laboratory experiments.
Thanks to the computational resources available nowadays, it is possible to carry out
numerical simulations of systems approaching the size of those of interest for the
understanding of AFM experiments, albeit not yet on the appropriate time scales.
Different theoretical approaches can be used to simulate frictional processes at the
nanoscale, ranging from simple nonlinear models to complex molecular dynamics simulations
taking into account more realistic features.
It is thus necessary to bring together different communities and researchers working on
different aspects of atomic-scale friction and using different theoretical and
computational approaches. Moreover, in order to compare more effectively theoretical predictions with tribological experimental data and methodologies, this event envisages strategically the simultaneous presence of scientific renowned experimentalists working in the field.