Friction through dynamical formation and rupture of molecular bonds

Phys Rev Lett. 2004 Apr 2;92(13):135503. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.92.135503. Epub 2004 Mar 30.


We introduce a model for friction in a system of two rigid plates connected by bonds (springs) and experiencing an external drive. The macroscopic frictional properties of the system are shown to be directly related to the rupture and formation dynamics of the microscopic bonds. Different regimes of motion are characterized by different rates of rupture and formation relative to the driving velocity. In particular, the stick-slip regime is shown to correspond to a cooperative rupture of the bonds. Moreover, the notion of static friction is shown to be dependent on the experimental conditions and time scales. The overall behavior can be described in terms of two Deborah numbers.