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Fracture mechanics determine the lengths of interface ruptures that mediate frictional motion

Nature Physics volume 12, pages 166170 (2016) | Download Citation

Abstract

The transition from static to sliding friction is mediated by rapid interfacial ruptures1,2,3,4,5 propagating through the solid contacts forming a frictional interface6. While propagating, these ruptures correspond to true shear cracks7. Frictional sliding is initiated only when a rupture traverses the entire interface1; however, arrested ruptures can occur at applied shears far below the transition to frictional motion8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17. Here we show, by measuring the real contact area and strain fields near rough frictional interfaces, that fracture mechanics quantitatively describe rupture arrest and therefore determine the onset of overall frictional sliding. Our measurements reveal both the local dissipation and the global elastic energy released by the rupture. The balance of these quantities entirely determines rupture lengths, whether finite or system-wide. These results confirm a fracture-mechanics-based paradigm7,15,18 for describing frictional motion and shed light on the selection18,19,20,21 of an earthquake’s magnitude.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge support from the James S. McDonnell Fund, the European Research Council (Grant No. 267256) and the Israel Science Foundation (Grant 76/11). E.B. acknowledges support from the Lady Davis Trust. We thank G. Cohen for comments.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. The Racah Institute of Physics, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 91904, Israel

    • Elsa Bayart
    • , Ilya Svetlizky
    •  & Jay Fineberg

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Contributions

E.B. and I.S. performed the measurements. All authors contributed to the analysis and writing the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jay Fineberg.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nphys3539

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