Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Experimental observation of Shapiro-steps in colloidal monolayers driven across time-dependent substrate potentials

T. Brazda, C. July and C. Bechinger

We experimentally study the motion of a colloidal monolayer which is driven across a commensurate substrate potential whose amplitude is periodically modulated in time. In addition to a significant reduction of the static friction force compared to an unmodulated substrate, we observe a Shapiro step structure in the force dependence of the mean particle velocity which is explained by the dynamical mode locking between the particle motion and the substrate modulation. In this regime, the entire crystal moves in a stick-slip fashion similar to what is observed when a single point contact is driven across a periodic surface. Contrary to numerical simulations, where typically a large number of Shapiro steps is found, only a single step is observed in our experiments. This is explained by the formation of kinks which weaken the synchronization between adjacent particles.

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