Interfacial electro-mechanical behaviour at rough surfaces

Chongpu Zhai, Dorian Hanaor, Gwénaëlle Proust, Laurence Brassart, Yixiang Gan

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27 Citations (Scopus)


In a range of energy systems, interfacial characteristics at the finest length scales strongly impact overall system performance, including cycle life, electrical power loss, and storage capacity. In this letter, we experimentally investigate the influence of surface topology on interfacial electro-mechanical properties, including contact stiffness and electrical conductance at rough surfaces under varying compressive stresses. We consider different rough surfaces modified through polishing and/or sand blasting. The measured normal contact stiffness, obtained through nanoindentation employing a partial unloading method, is shown to exhibit power law scaling with normal pressure, with the exponent of this relationship closely correlated to the fractal dimension of the surfaces. The electrical contact resistance at interfaces, measured using a controlled current method, revealed that the measured resistance is affected by testing current, mechanical loading, and surface topology. At a constant applied current, the electrical resistance as a function of applied normal stress is found to follow a power law within a certain range, the exponent of which is closely linked to surface topology. The correlation between stress-dependent electrical contact and normal contact stiffness is discussed based on simple scaling arguments. This study provides a first-order investigation connecting interfacial mechanical and electrical behaviour, applicable to studies of multiple components in energy systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)422-429
Number of pages8
JournalExtreme Mechanics Letters
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • Rough surfaces
  • Contact stiffness
  • Electrical contact resistance
  • Electro-mechanical behaviour

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