Direct observation of events taking place at the contacting interfaces is important to understand many tribological phenomena. Transmission electron microscope (TEM) has the ability to look through materials at very high magnifications. Most of the TEM observations are done long after the deforming loads and stresses have been relaxed and the material state is further disturbed during the specimen preparation. We have developed a specimen holder in which two electron transparent surfaces can be brought in contact and moved relative to each other in JEOL 2000FX microscope. This holder enables visualization of not only the contacting surfaces at nanoscale but also the subsurface deformation resulting from the contact interaction. Sliding experiments have been carried out mimicking a single asperity sliding contact. A sharp tungsten probe is moved laterally against a tip mounted on a cantilever. Magnitude of the contact instability, when the contact is broken is found to be dependent on the local geometry of the contact. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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