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I came to know that the friction force actually depends on the surface contact area due to weak interactions (adhesion due to Van der Waals forces) between the atoms of both materials increasing in number with an area increase.

If this force could be over-ridden with something like a strong electric field, polar molecules, or something among those lines, would the friction characteristics differ? Is it even possible in the first way, since they arise from fluctuations of the electron cloud?

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  • $\begingroup$ Do you want to eliminate them, or overwhelm them? $\endgroup$ – Johannes Nov 1 '14 at 3:56
  • $\begingroup$ Both options work, as I want to know if it is possible to make friction independent of contact area. $\endgroup$ – André Pereira Nov 1 '14 at 18:37
  • $\begingroup$ Depends on how you define contact area. It usually boils down to how you define something, for each definition of contact area, there should be some differences in the explanation. Eliminating a force is hard, a single atom on Jupiter has a gravitational pull on you, even though it is extremely small. Even when you can eliminate something though specific wavelengths not appearing, it only works in theory, as there is always a slim probability of something puffing in or out. $\endgroup$ – WalyKu Jul 6 '15 at 6:59
  • $\begingroup$ In some situations, yes. I'm not going to write an answer on this because I'm certainly no expert on atomic and molecular physics but I remember learning about this last year. In Phys. Rev. Lett. $\mathbf{93}$, 063001, the authors, in the abstract, claim that "In the laser excitation of ultracold atoms to Rydberg states, we observe a dramatic suppression caused by van der Waals interactions..." I believe what formed was certain domains within the trap where the long-range van der Waal interaction from other domains was suppressed. I'll note I haven't read the paper. $\endgroup$ – John M Sep 17 '15 at 1:22
  • $\begingroup$ From what I've learned frictional force is independent of contact surface area of the 2 bodies in contact $\endgroup$ – slhulk Sep 17 '15 at 2:10
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I don't know what you have in mind, but friction can be mitigated using such things as low friction materials (such as PTFE), wheels, roller/ball bearings, lubrication, air lift, magnetic levitation, and what not...

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  • $\begingroup$ I think the information I had before the mod edited it was relevant: I was talking about tires and their friction. I came to know that rubber and asphalt interact in a particular way, such that the aparent area of contact is similar to the effective area of contact, making the atomic interactions relevant. Is it possible to make the friction not depend on the contact area? $\endgroup$ – André Pereira Nov 1 '14 at 18:40
  • $\begingroup$ Frictionless tyres sounds a bit... dangerous $\endgroup$ – user56903 Jul 6 '15 at 7:26

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