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The adhesive force (AF) and the electron work function (EWF) of different crystallographic planes of Cu were determined, with the aim of exploring the potential application of the Kelvin method in characterizing the adhesion of solid surfaces especially those in nano/microdevices. It was demonstrated that there was a close correlation between the EWF and AF, and both the parameters were dependent on the surface atomic arrangement. This study indicates that the EWF is a parameter that could be used to characterize the adhesion behavior of a surface. © 2001 American Institute of Physics.